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NEWS | Wednesday, 06 August 2008

Tuna expert disputes Malta export figures

In a comment penned for MaltaToday (see page 12, 13), Advanced Tuna Ranching Technologies chief executive Roberto Mielgo Bregazzi stands by MaltaToday Midweek’s story last week on Malta’s questionable tuna export to Japan.
The Fisheries Department last week issued a detailed breakdown of its bluefin tuna exports to Japan between 2007 and 2008, after MaltaToday Midweek pinpointed a discrepancy of over 6 million kg between international trade report figures, and an estimate of how much tuna could physically be exported from Malta over the same period.
While Japan’s official statistical declarations to ICCAT (the international tuna conservation authority), indicate Malta would have exported to Japan nearly 12 million kg of bluefin tuna between June 2007 and March 2008, an industry intelligence report published by ATRT late last year suggests that the total stock of live bluefin tuna present in Malta’s fish-farms at the time – and therefore available for export – could not have been more than 4.8 million kg.
This figure was reached after subtracting this year’s surplus, as well as a quantity of fish lost during a storm in October 2007, from an initial estimate of 6.4 million kg.
ATRT chief executive Roberto Mielgo Bregazzi maintains that none of the alleged transhipments of bluefin tuna at a Maltese port during the last half of 2007 were wrongfully recorded by Japan as a Maltese re-export to Japan in its official statistical export and re-export declaration.
“Therefore the figure of over 11 million kgs mentioned in MaltaToday’s article, rightfully does not include bluefin tuna ranched in other EU Member States or third countries’ tuna ranches that was transhipped in Malta for containerized re-export to Japan during that same period. Having done so would have wrongfully increased Malta’s third and fourth quarter 2007 ranched bluefin tuna exports to Japan by as much as 2,940,731 kgs,” Mielgo Bregazzi says.
ATRT’s chief executive claims that Malta’s fisheries directorate, which claims that Malta has re-exported bluefin tuna to Japan, cannot issue re-export certificates for merchandise that was never imported that was only in transit.
“Frozen processed bluefin tuna transhipped at a Maltese port is just that: a transhipped commodity. It is not reprocessed in Malta, therefore no added-value is locally produced by Malta on such commodity. Malta could have therefore only validated the original Turkish and Libyan statistical documents pertaining to the fishing vessels having caught such fish, issued by their respective flag countries.”
In a right of reply by Anthony Gruppetta (see page 10), the head of the fisheries division says the figure mentioned of over 11 million kg of bluefin tuna includes tuna tuna which is transhipped in Malta.
“Bluefin tuna farmed in other Member States and Third Country farms is harvested onboard processing vessels. These processing vessels then come over to Malta where transhipment of bluefin tuna takes place from the processing vessels into containers. These containers then continue their journey to Japan. Malta validates the original statistical documents issued by the flag country of the fishing vessel, or else issues a re-export certificate. This does not mean that the bluefin tuna was farmed in Malta. It only means that the transhipping process took place in Malta and the Maltese authorities validated the original statistical documents.”

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