Fish farm operators inspected at least three times a week, ERA says

The Environment and Resources Authority says it has issued 15 administrative fines and one enforcement order against tuna farm operators this year

ERA circulated a photo showing the amount of fat produced when fish feed is thawed and which is now being prevented from contaminating the sea through established thawing and feeding procedures
ERA circulated a photo showing the amount of fat produced when fish feed is thawed and which is now being prevented from contaminating the sea through established thawing and feeding procedures

All fish farm operators are inspected at least three times a week by officers to ensure permit conditions are being followed, the Environment and Resources Authority has said.

In a statement on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the authority said that due to various sightings and reports of material in the sea that has been attributed to sea slime, it would like to make it clear that all fish remnants resulting during the feeding process are collected by cleaning vessels that patrol the perimeter of the fish farms.

“All feeding procedures are being undertaken in such a manner as to reduce fat-laden thaw water from the baitfish, from reaching the sea,” ERA said.

ERA said that as a result of discussions held between the authority and tuna farm operators, feeding methods have improved and new thawing procedures have resulted in "a drastic reduction" of thaw water and fish oils in the surrounding sea.

“ERA’s officers constantly monitor fish farm operations both onshore and offshore and hold frequent meetings with operators in order to ensure practices that cause the least amount of disturbance to the natural environment are being followed. Fifteen administrative fines and one compliance and enforcement order have been issued against tuna farm operators in 2019.”

The authority emphasised that the collaboration of all fish farm operators is vital in ensuring no disturbance or damage is caused to natural habitats because of commercial interests.

ERA highlighted, however, that there are various types of sea surface phenomena, including lasting foam, mucilaginous formations and oily sea slime.  

Lasting foam is a natural phenomenon and the result of micro-algal blooms, which release natural detergents and lead to foaming forming at surface. This has been reported in various parts around Malta and in various parts of the Mediterranean and elsewhere.

Whereas, Mucilaginous events may also result from natural phenomena and like lasting foam, are usually caused by micro-algal blooms and produce slimy formations. On the other hand, oil slicks and oily sea slime usually arise from manmade sources, including fish farms. The latter is usually distinguished from its consistency and foul smell.

“All the above events have direct but different impacts on the environment and sometimes on humans. It may be that the occurrence of lasting foam or micro-algal blooms interacts with the oily residues released by fish farms, to aggravate the resultant environmental impacts.”

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