A total of 80 cages used for aquaculture in Malta occupy a surface area of 78,773 square metres, as much as 11 football pitches, the recently published Census on Fisheries published by the National Office of Statistics reveals.
According to the NSO, total production of farmed fish in 2005 amounted to 5.1 million kilograms, yielding a value of €48 million. Bluefin tuna alone, which accounted for 82.6% of the total weight of farmed fish, yielded €44 million.
Aquaculture currently employs 192 persons, 130 of whom working on a full-time basis and the remaining 62 on part-time. 28 are foreign workers.
Surprisingly the census refers to tuna penning under the misnomer of tuna farming. The World Wildlife Fund distinguishes between true aquaculture, where fish are bred and reared in captivity; and tuna penning, which involves the fattening in cages of wild-caught tuna.
The WWF warns that overfishing of tuna ranched in countries like Malta could lead to the extinction of the species.
In October 2007 it called for an immediate three-year closure of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery, following a season of unprecedented illegal and uncontrolled fishing.