Din l-Art Helwa Press Release 3rd January 2009

Din l-Art Helwa, National Trust of Malta, has expressed its satisfaction that the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs has provided guidelines to amateur fishermen who have their boats registered as MFC – owners of boats who use their crafts for leisure fishing. These guidelines provide amateur fishermen with the legal minimum size of catch for a great number of fish in order to protect against dwindling fish stock. While it is industrial fishing that is causing the greatest destruction to fish stocks, amateur fisherman would also do well to play their part to assist with the conservation of our marine environment, says the organisation.

Amongst the guidelines distributed listing the minimum sizes of fish that should be caught, one will find that the Dusky Grouper (Cerna) has a limited catch size of not less than 45cm, the White Sea Bream (Sargu) a minimum of 23cm, the Common Sea Bream (Pagru Komuni) a minimum of 18cm, the Common Pandora (Pagella) and the Horse Mackerel (Sawrella) both a minimum of 15cm.

Dr. Stanley Farrugia Randon, a volunteer and Council Member of Din l-Art Helwa, himself an amateur fisherman, said many amateur fishermen were not happy to receive these guidelines which reminded them that these regulations have been in force since 1934. He also said it is to be regretted that the Ministry of Resources and Rural Affairs has omitted to mention other important fish such as the Saddled Bream (Kahlija), the Dentex (Denci) and the Grouper (Dott) although the regulations of 1934 stipulate a limit of 11.5 cm (Regulation No 35 – Minimum Size Limits). This minimum size limit should apply to any fish not mentioned.

The register of catches reported at the Fish Market throughout the years shows a drastic decrease in the amount of Saddled Bream caught. Despite this, the presence of small size fish at fishmongers shows that the illegal practice of catching immature stock persists. Amateur fishermen are advised to use larger hooks and carefully remove immature fish if these get caught. The practice of using small nets (parit), for the most times at the mouths of small bays, should be controlled and fines enforced. The great majority of fish thrown back immediately would survive.

Dr. Farrugia Randon concluded that if the practice of catching immature fish continues, the fishing industry will become unsustainable and this will have a negative repercussions for Maltese and visitors, not only because food stock will continue to decrease but the quality of the marine environment around the Maltese islands will deteriorate beyond repair.