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NEWS | Sunday, 31 August 2008

Two ‘phantom farms’ among Malta’s official tuna ranches


Malta has since 2002 declared a non-existent farm among its eight registered bluefin tuna fattening ranches; and as of this year, a second, much larger and equally non-existent ranch has also been added to the country’s bluefin tuna farming register.
These declarations were made by the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs to the European Commission’s fisheries directorate (DG Mare), which in turn passed on false information to the world bluefin tuna industry regulator, ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna).
To this day, the ICCAT register includes a farm named Mediterranean Tuna Ltd off Benghajsa, and another named Deep Sea Aquaculture in Xrobb L-Ghagin, limits of Delimara... despite the fact that neither farm actually exists.
Mediterranean Tuna Ltd, with a capacity of 350 metric tonnes, has been declared as operational by the MRRA every year since 1999. However, aerial photographs taken by Greenpeace last Saturday show only an empty stretch of sea on the site of this supposed ranch. MaltaToday can now confirm that the farm has not existed since 2002. However, its previously declared 350-metric tonne capacity still contributes to Malta’s total official ranching capacity, which (perhaps unsurprisingly) is today the largest in the world.
As for Deep Sea Aquaculture, this ranching operation is currently at the centre of a number of legal proceedings, and has not commenced operations this year. In fact, up until last Saturday, when aerial photos were taken of all Malta’s tuna ranches, the cages had not even been moored in place. And yet, this farm was nonetheless declared as operational to ICCAT, and is even now listed on the register as having a total biomass capacity of 1,500 metric tonnes.
Ironically, this declaration was made immediately after the last Meeting of Managers and Stakeholders in Atlantic BlueFin Tuna, held in Tokyo on 26 and 27 March, and attended by: Charles and David Azzopardi (AJD Tuna Ltd); Joe Caruana (Fish & Fish Ltd); and Andreina Fenech Farrugia, on behalf of the Fisheries Control Division (MRRA).
The Maltese delegation was among the proponents of the “Joint Statement on the Sustainable Use of the Eastern Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Resource”, unanimously approved by stakeholders, which reaffirmed (among others) the need to “prudently manage their fishing/caging/reefer capacity, fishing effort and market imports in such a manner that brings them into line with the decreasing levels of TAC foreseen in the Bluefin Tuna Recovery Plan”.
And yet, shortly after approving this document, Malta declared two phantom tuna ranches for a combined caging capacity of 1,850 metric tonnes. At today’s market prices, this quantity of bluefin tuna would be sold for around €40 million.

All six existing farms in breach of regulations
MaltaToday can meanwhile confirm that of the remaining six registered (and existing) tuna fattening ranches, all are in breach of EU regulations.
This newspaper commissioned an international consultancy firm to carry out a survey of Malta’s operational tuna ranches, with a view to establishing their precise capacities as opposed to their declarations to the Commission’s DG Mare: available for public scrutiny on the ICCAT website (www.iccat.int).
The study, carried out by Roberto Mielgo Bregazzi on behalf of Advanced Tuna Ranching Technologies, finds that not a single one of these farms has declared its actual capacity to the international regulator, as required by both ICCAT regulations and EU directives.
Many of the farms have significantly over-declared their capacity, while others have under-declared by as much as 900 metric tonnes.
In the light of today’s revelation that two inoperative farms have been declared operative by the Rural Affairs Ministry, this suggests that the capacity of the non-existent ranches (1,850 metric tonnes) may be used to camouflage the discrepancies in real capacity among the remaining farms.
All five operators are currently suing this newspaper over an article in which tuna experts questioned Malta’s export statistics to Japan.

 


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