EU Com­mis­sion con­sid­ers en­force­ment of slime and sludge in Malta’s sea wa­ter as na­tional au­thor­ity is­sue

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

PN MEP Therese Co­mo­dini Cachia asked a num­ber of EU Par­lia­men­tary ques­tions re­cently, re­lat­ing to the in­creas­ing con­cen­tra­tion of slime and sludge in Malta’s sea wa­ter which is the re­sult of residue from fish farms.

While say­ing that the Com­mis­sion will ex­am­ine mea­sures pro­posed by the Mal­tese au­thor­i­ties to achieve or main­tain good en­vi­ron­men­tal sta­tus in their marine wa­ters by 2020 once they are re­ceived, EU Com­mis­sioner Kar­menu Vella in his re­ply also said that based on avail­able in­for­ma­tion, the Com­mis­sion con­sid­ers this (the sludge and slime) to be an en­force­ment is­sue for the re­spon­si­ble na­tional au­thor­ity.

The MEP, in her ques­tions said: “sev­eral me­dia re­ports show ev­i­dence of an in­creas­ing con­cen­tra­tion of slime and sludge in Malta’s sea wa­ter which is the re­sult of residue from fish farms and is spilling into bathing ar­eas, thereby pol­lut­ing the marine en­vi­ron­ment as well as af­fect­ing the qual­ity of bathing sea wa­ter in Malta. The same re­ports claim that there is a di­rect link be­tween the fish farm­ing in­dus­try and the pol­lu­tion in ques­tion. The na­tional au­thor­i­ties have not han­dled the sit­u­a­tion ef­fec­tively de­spite be­ing aware of the en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ard, and have not ef­fec­tively im­ple­mented rules to safe­guard the marine en­vi­ron­ment and the qual­ity of bathing sea wa­ter”.

The MEP asked: “Has the Com­mis­sion ini­ti­ated an anal­y­sis of this sit­u­a­tion with a view to en­sur­ing that the high­est en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards are im­ple­mented by Malta? Has the Com­mis­sion sought in­for­ma­tion from the Mal­tese Govern­ment in this re­spect? What process will the Com­mis­sion ini­ti­ate to en­sure that Malta ac­tively works to­wards achiev­ing the stan­dards set by the Marine Strat­egy Frame­work Di­rec­tive, and specif­i­cally to­wards ob­tain­ing Good En­vi­ron­men­tal Sta­tus (GES) for EU marine wa­ters by 2020?”

EU Com­mis­sioner for the En­vi­ron­ment Kar­menu Vella said that the Com­mis­sion is fol­low­ing the me­dia re­ports and is “closely mon­i­tor­ing the devel­op­ments”.

“Based on avail­able in­for­ma­tion, the Com­mis­sion con­sid­ers this to be an en­force­ment is­sue for the re­spon­si­ble na­tional au­thor­ity, while tak­ing note of more re­cent me­dia re­ports on re­me­dial ac­tion hav­ing been taken. Beyond the spe­cific events re­ferred to by the Hon­ourable Mem­ber, a reg­u­lar re­port­ing sys­tem is in place to en­sure com­pli­ance by Mem­ber States with EU rules on en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact and wa­ter qual­ity reg­u­la­tions”.

When re­port­ing to the Com­mis­sion un­der the Marine Strat­egy Frame­work Di­rec­tive in 2013 and the Wa­ter Frame­work Di­rec­tive in 2011, Malta iden­ti­fied aqua­cul­ture as a pres­sure, among oth­ers, which im­pacts its marine wa­ters, he said. “More specif­i­cally, Malta's re­cently adopted River Basin Man­age­ment Plan in­cludes es­ti­mates of eu­troph­i­ca­tion, con­tam­i­nants re­lease and hy­dro-mor­pho­log­i­cal changes at­trib­uted to aqua­cul­ture”.

“It also in­cludes mea­sures to limit the im­pact of aqua­cul­ture by re­in­forc­ing the per­mits given to the op­er­a­tors. The Com­mis­sion is now eval­u­at­ing this plan to­gether with those of the other Mem­ber States”.

He said that the Com­mis­sion has also pro­vided guid­ance to en­cour­age the sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of the aqua­cul­ture sec­tor in full re­spect of EU wa­ter qual­ity reg­u­la­tions.

“Fi­nally, the Com­mis­sion will ex­am­ine the mea­sures pro­posed by the Mal­tese au­thor­i­ties to achieve or main­tain good en­vi­ron­men­tal sta­tus in their marine wa­ters by 2020 once they are re­ceived, to en­sure that Mal­tese au­thor­i­ties are tak­ing ef­fi­cient ac­tions to ad­dress the pres­sure iden­ti­fied”.

Four fish farm op­er­a­tors had their 10 de­vel­op­ment per­mits unan­i­mously re­voked by the Plan­ning Board given that their op­er­a­tion was in breach of plan­ning con­di­tions to the detri­ment of the en­vi­ron­ment and neg­a­tively im­pact­ing the coastal bathing wa­ter. The re­spec­tive fish farm op­er­a­tors have up un­til 31 De­cem­ber 2016, to com­pletely re­lo­cate their tuna struc­tures and op­er­a­tions to the ap­proved aqua­cul­ture zone in the south of Malta.

Ear­lier this month, the Plan­ning Au­thor­ity con­firmed that two of four fish farm op­er­a­tors are fully com­pli­ant with the uni­lat­eral dec­la­ra­tion they made with the Au­thor­ity on how and when they were to re­move their re­spec­tive fish farms. The two op­er­a­tors, Malta Fish Farm­ing Ltd and Malta Mar­i­cul­ture Ltd re­moved two twenty me­ter di­am­e­ter cages and 2 fifty me­ter di­am­e­ter cages re­spec­tively. The other two op­er­a­tors, Fish&Fish Ltd and AJD Tuna Ltd were at the time not fully com­pli­ant, how­ever also re­moved one and two fifty me­ter di­am­e­ter cages re­spec­tively. Fish&Fish Ltd also emp­tied out two other fifty me­ter di­am­e­ter cages and was await­ing the Fish­eries Depart­ment to pro­vide the ex­act co-or­di­nates where to move the cages to.

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