Current Affairs
Much of the foam this year was not caused by tuna industry – Marine biologist

Statistics for 2017 issued by the National Office of Statistics show that the Maltese tuna industry produced 13,000 tonnes of tuna, at a value of almost €170 million, 90% of which was exported to Japan.

The Maltese Federation for Aquaculture Products explained that work is being down both with regard to procedures as well as training of human resources so that the industry can continue to expand and be sustainable. Marine biologist Prof Joe Borg, who is a consultant to the Federation, explained that many of the cases of foam which were reported this year were not caused by the tuna industry but by other factors, including natural ones.

The Federation, which represents five operators who produce 75% of tuna between them, defended the operation of the industry against unfair criticism.

During a press conference, the CEO, Charlon Gouder said that this year, the operators signed an agreement for self-regulation. He added that the agreement binds the operators to adhere to practices which go beyond what environmental permits demand.

He said that the Environment and Resources Authority carried out at least 60 inspections on tuna pens and did not issue any enforcement orders against the operators.

Speaking about the foam which was reported near the shore, Prof Borg said that many times this is formed by a mixture of substances which are present in the sea.

“Most of them are natural phenomena which are created by the vegetation in the sea; some of them are algae, which is the moss we see on rocks for example,  and on hard seabeds, and then there is also the phytoplankton which is a microscopic algae which floats on the surface.  These produce a substance which is combined with other substances created by man in the sea, and various other factors including when it rains a lot and material is dragged into the sea from the valleys.”

Dr Gouder said that the operators have been bound to have at least two boats to collect the oil which leaks from the feed in the tuna pens.

“They have a commitment to collect the oil and dispose of it with the Federation so that every complaint we receive can be investigated and acted upon.”

He said that more than 96,000 litres of tuna oil has been collected from the pens which is sold to be processed. He explained that a lot of the foam which was reported in the sea occurred at a time when the feed which was made from herrings, sardines and mackerel had already been stopped. Dr Gouder said that when compared to last year, the complaints had decreased and the Federation had investigated each and every case. He also noted that the majority of the complaints came in during September when the weather had started to change.

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