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Over Quota Live Bluefin Released From Tuna Pen

Twenty tuna weighing a total of 2.5 tons with a market value of €50,000 were released into the open sea from a tuna pen off Delimara after the Moroccan vessel that had caught them was found to have overstepped its quota.

The live bluefin tuna, each weighing over 120 kilos, were set free by the Fisheries Control Department from a tuna pen to which the fish had been transferred from the Moroccan fishing vessel Le Marlin.

A routine inspection had revealed the vessel overstepped its 100-ton quota of tuna.

The vessel had obtained authorization from the Moroccan authorities to catch 100 tons of the fish and deposit them in the cages of Maltese tuna farm Fish and Fish situated off Delimara.

During a four-hour operation last week, the tuna were lifted and released into the sea. No legal action will be taken against the owner of the fish farm or the Moroccan vessel, a Resources Ministry spokesman said.

"There is no legal issue involved - the extra fish were removed. If anything, it should be taken up by the Moroccan authorities," he said. The value of the tuna would have hovered around €20,000 when caught a couple of months ago but their value would have climbed to around €50,000 if slaughtered and sold now, according to experts in the Fisheries Department.
Although the released tuna are fully grown, they can continue growing in size, even reaching monstrous proportions, well over 600 kilos.

The lucrative business of blue fin tuna fishing has been a cause for concern to environmental groups which have warned that the stocks of this magnificent fish could be depleted in just three years because of overfishing. The EU recently issued a number of directives to restrict fishing but leading lobby Greenpeace said the measures were not enough.

According to EU figures, last year the biggest chunk of the 7,165 tons of farmed fish produced in Malta was blue fin tuna, worth millions of euros and mostly exported to Japan.

Thousands of small tuna are brought to Malta in cages by foreign fishermen to be fattened at the many tuna ranches along the Maltese coastline and later exported to the Japanese sushi market.