Hundreds of Marsascala residents have written to the European Commission in their bid to stop plans to develop a yacht marina in the village’s bay. 

The residents are seeking an inquiry into the proposals, which they argue breach several EU regulations aimed at combating pollution and protecting marine life.

Signed by 700 individuals and 8 Maltese organisations, the letter argued that the planned marina breaches the EU Habitats Directive and other Conventions and Protocols. 

Dated December 27, 2021 but only made public on Saturday, the letter was sent to EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, with EU Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius and European Parliament acting president Roberta Metsola copied in. 

“We call on the European Commission to step in and support us in our struggle to preserve Marsaskala Bay by inviting the government of Malta to withdraw its plans to develop a yacht marina in Marsaskala Bay and instead to put sustainability and the well-being of citizens at the centre of economic policy,” they wrote.

The yacht marina plans were brought to light last year after Transport Malta published a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ), soliciting bidders for the massive project. Four bidders have presented proposals for the site.

Following public uproar,  Transport Malta argued that the plans were not final but insisted that the 2006 local plans earmarked the bay for a marina development. Objectors have noted that Malta has become dramatically more populated since 2006, with the bay one of the country’s dwindling number of open spaces. 

Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg has argued that the country needs an additional marina because the number of pleasure boats has mushroomed. 

Marsascala’s Labour-led local council is opposing the plans, as is the Nationalist Party opposition. 

In their letter to the European Parliament, residents and NGOs listed a series of concerns they have about the proposal. 

Chief among them is the survival of a Natura 2000 protected area known as ‘il-Magħluq’, which includes two types of habitat and one fish species, the Mediterranean killifish (il-Bużaqq), which are protected by the EU’s Habitats Directive, as well as a critically endangered species, the European eel and another protected habitat, Posidonia Meadows. 

All risk being annihilated by the marina plans, which will introduce water pollution, alter water flow and light penetration and require breakwaters and chemical anti-fouling agents, the objectors noted. 

Objectors have also based their arguments against the marina on the fact that the project would run contrary to the EU’s climate change goals and its much-vaunted European Green Deal.

“A yacht marina will only encourage the purchase of more recreational craft which contribute to carbon generation rather than carbon neutrality,” they wrote in their letter. Even if boats use less polluting engines, the increase in the number of boats would offset these gains, they added, with the permanent marina also depriving Marsascala bay of the regenerative benefits it currently enjoys during the winter months, when boat owners lift their vessels onto land. 

Marsascala fishermen have said that the marina will effectively kill off their business, and in their letter objectors also flagged such concerns, saying a marina would fundamentally alter the bay’s primary activities, displacing fishermen, sports activities, swimmers and many others “to accommodate the whims of the few, and for reasons which are not public interest.” 

The letter was signed by Ann Bugeja, who serves as president of the Marsacala Residents’ Network. 

It is backed by: 

  1.  Marsaskala Residents’ Network
  2. Moviment Graffitti
  3. Nature Trust Malta
  4. Din l-Art Ħelwa
  5. Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar
  6. Friends of the Earth Malta
  7. Rota
  8. The Archaeological Society Malta

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