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Malta Doubles Bluefin Farming, Generates €58 Million Growth In 2012

Malta has doubled the amount of bluefin tuna it is breeding in captivity, increasing the island nation’s turnover in the aquaculture industry by as much as €58.2 million from 2011 to 2012.


The Maltese aquaculture industry is made up in its majority from bluefin tuna farming, which saw a huge 104.5 percent increase year on year. The gross value added of the aquaculture industry of the country in 2012 amounted to €25.8 million, up a staggering 147.0 percent from €10.4 million in 2011. 
Large international fishing companies fish for tuna close to the south of Malta and Libya during the tuna season between May and June, when the fish move through the Mediterranean Sea to breed. The tuna is caught alive and sold to fattening tuna pens of which Malta buys its 180 ton share of the quota.
The European Commission announced last week that a scientific consortium which involved 13 partners from eight nations, including Malta, had achieved “remarkable results” as scientists managed to breed bluefin tuna.
Ray Bugeja, secretary of the National Fisheries Cooperative said that Japan, the main market for bluefin tuna, had been attempting to make financial success in bluefin farming since the 1970’s and to date had only managed a five percent survival rate.
Bluefin tuna is a migratory species and therefore difficulties can emerge when breeding due to its need for changing environmental conditions. The bluefin is also a predatory fish which means replicating its natural habitat for breeding purposes can be highly complex, and the fish requires large amounts of wild fish, such as sardines, as feed.
Marine Biologist, Alan Deidun, explained that if breeding proved to be viable on a large scale, it would be positive news from an environmental point of view as it would stop the depletion of the endangered bluefin stock, but shared the concern that if breeding did catch on, it would lead to a decrease of levels of fish caught to feed the tuna in captivity.