Large haul of juveniles sinks Lampuki price as late winter delays fish growth

Compared to previous years, the start of the season has seen a large catch of smaller sized Lampuki, which have dragged down prices

Oversupply and a late winter that has delayed the maturing of lampuki has driven prices down for this much-loved 'Maltese' fish. Photo: Zak Farrugia/Mediatoday
Oversupply and a late winter that has delayed the maturing of lampuki has driven prices down for this much-loved 'Maltese' fish. Photo: Zak Farrugia/Mediatoday

A large catch of lampuki at the beginning of the season has deflated the fish’s price across the country.

The traditional dish returned to restaurants and homes, as the Lampuki fishing season opened around mid-August.

While in recent years, fishermen have raised their concern over low-yields during the dolphin fish season, this year has been a contrast to the norm.

Compared to previous years, the start of the season has seen a large catch of smaller sized Lampuki, which have dragged down prices.

While it is normal for lampuki at this stage of the season to be on the smaller side, fisherman have caught larger quantities of the fish.

MaltaToday inquired with some fish shops over the prices they are selling lampuki at their respective shops.

While the price may vary according to the catch of the day, the smaller sized lampuki are being sold at prices which range from €3.50 to €4.50 a kilo, while larger sized lampuki are being sold at prices which range from €7.00 to €8.50 a kilo.

The larger sized fish are sold at a more expensive price due to the tastier meat the fish develops as it matures.

Asked if quality has been affected, shop owners and vendors said that it has remained the same.

“Larger fish have more meat, are tastier, and customers prefer them, but the quality has remained the same across the board,” one fish-monger said.  

Owners of popular fish restaurants were asked how the price drop has affected them.

Marsaxlokk restaurant La Capanna’s owner, said that the low prices can only benefit the customer, but stated that restaurateurs will still look to buy larger fish.

“While prices have dropped, especially for the smaller lampuki, I still look to buy the bigger fish, as they look better in displays and people get more for their money,” he said.

While the owner insisted that the quality of the meat is still good, the bigger fish are easier to eat and customers prefer them.

Marine Biologist Alan Deidun said that the large spawn of younger lampuki can be attributed to this year’s late winter, which in contrast with previous years dragged on into the month of June.

“Lampuki are a migratory species, so they reproduce according to the environmental cues around them,” Deidun explained.

Hormonal instincts are what drive the fish’s reproduction cycle, therefore having migrated at a later stage due to colder waters, breeding occurred at a more advanced stage.

Deidun was asked how the fishing of such a large number of juveniles will affect the species’ population.

“It is still early in the season, but the killing of such a large number of younger specimen before they have laid eggs must have some sort of impact on the population,” Deidun said.

MaltaToday also spoke with lampuki fisherman Anthony Zerafa, who said that while the large catch does benefit the fishermen, no one knows what the future holds.

“The season looks as if it will be a good one, but come tomorrow we may not catch a single fish,” Zerafa said.

Asked how fishermen feel about the drop in prices, Zerafa said that while one prefers to sell the fish at a slightly more expensive price, fishermen and fish-mongers alike have to make do with what they have.

“We need to sell all as much of the fish we catch as possible, so when you have a larger abundance it’s only natural for the price to drop,” he said.

The prices for the remainder of the season may not necessarily remain low, according to Anthony, who stated that as the size and amount of fish caught vary, so do the rates at which they are sold.

Despite the large catch of juveniles, the fisherman said that he and his colleagues have already started noticing larger fish in their catch.

“The warmer weather is favouring us, as the warmer the water, the larger the fish get,” he said.

Zerafa also said that while the season looks to be a favourable one, it is still far off from what it used to be back in his father’s fishing days.

“My dad’s trawler used to bring 200 crates of fish after a trip, nowadays trawlers who fish in the same waters come back with 20 to 30 crates on a good day,” he said.

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