Times of Malta, Letter to the Editor, 21 August 2009

I read with interest the letter written by Mark Mifsud Bonnici entitled Illegal Fishing Rampant (August 20). Indeed illegal fishing is still rampant despite regulations. Din l-Art Ħelwa has been running a Blue Campaign for the past five years and has often spoken about this practice which is decreasing fish stock and endangering some marine species. We had also discussed the matter with the Maltese EU Fisheries Commissioner but regulations have to be enforced locally.

Large amounts of immature swordfish are sold on a yearly basis in our fish markets. Fishermen do not seem to appreciate that by overfishing they are decreasing the fish stock on which their livelihood depends. Year after year it is becoming more obvious that our fish stock is decreasing rapidly. Both amateur and professional fishermen are noting that they have to spend more time and effort to catch the same amounts of fish as previous years.

What is even more worrying is the fact that fishermen are using nets with smaller mesh sizes and hooks of a smaller size. One can notice this while visiting major fish markets around our islands. This is leading to the catching of immature fish which results in an exponential decrease of fish stock.

The negative effects which certain fishing implements have on the fish population has been known since years. Continuous dredging of the seabed and uncontrolled use of nets with small mesh sizes are contributing to the depletion of fish in the Mediterranean.

Many nets are being hauled in bays and creeks and this practice must stop as this is depleting these breeding grounds from the fish. Various experts who visited our islands in the past to report on the fishing industry in Malta have condemned this practice. Fish enter bays to lay eggs and are caught before doing so. If they manage to do so, their young are caught while trying to swim out of the bay to mate and continue the life cycle of the species.

Fishing with the use of nets and long-lines should be prohibited within all bays and closed seasons should be contemplated in other areas. Bollards painted in red and white which prohibit fishing within a line which joins the bollards at each end of a bay are useless as they prohibit fishing only in a very small section of the bay.

Many seem very much concerned with closed seasons for hunting birds but we are ignoring the fact that we are endangering our fish stock.