It is commendable that the Planning Authority has nipped in the bud (or so it is hoped) any aspirations to reclaim land from the sea off the site of the former Jerma Palace Hotel in Marsascala. In its screening letter, the PA called the  proposal a non-starter but, when considered in a wider context, this spawns a number of questions:

Why is the PA opposed to land reclamation off the Jerma but in favour of it off Portomaso in St Julian’s by endorsing the Paceville master plan? And did the PA adopt its stand on each case based on information it has on the conservation status of the marine environment at both locations or due to pressure from local interest groups?

I guess we will never know, at least until (if ever) the consultations held between the PA and developers are made public, as Front Ħarsien ODZ has been advocating.

How can the possibility of land reclamation at Paceville be considered in isolation and not within the context of a national land reclamation strategy which has yet to see the light of day?

Ironically, the Paceville master plan is proposing something for which there is no master plan or national strategy. The master plan ‘concept’ in itself is quite a novel for Malta, and is positive as it marks a possible shift in mindset.

However, would it not have been more prudent to first devise such a strategy before papering over the cracks and proposing land reclamation projects in isolation, analogous to the high-rise proposals mushrooming all over the island?

And shouldn’t such a national land reclamation strategy be framed within the fledgling marine spatial plan that is being formulated for Malta’s territorial waters?

Why is the PA opposed to land reclamation off the Jerma but in favour of it off Portomaso?

Incidentally, the country’s land reclamation planning initiatives to date have been conducted within the context of a comprehensive framework, namely the two successive CarlBros and Scott-Wilson studies, which in­cluded both a site selection and feasibility study. The Scott-Wilson report conclusions should be acted upon, in what is a natural progression of the process, rather than going for stop-gap, ad hoc solutions.

On a related issue, during the past few months the airwaves have been swamped by promotional banter of all sorts extolling the many presumed virtues of the Paceville master plan without even sparing a thought to any of its unsavoury aspects, such as its massive land reclamation, long-term construction and resident eviction, just to mention a few. No eyebrows would be raised if those paying for the promotion of the master plan stand to benefit from the master plan’s implementation, since, at the end of the day, he who pays the piper gets to pick the tune.

The irony is that these ads are being financed through taxpayers’ money, effectively tapping public coffers to disseminate misinformation aimed to make the master plan more acceptable to the public and thus give a boost to the Paceville developers.

More tropical newcomers

A few weeks ago, news broke out of the arrival in Maltese waters of yet another tropical species – the Australian spotted jellyfish (Phyllorhiza punctata). The species, which can grow to a maximum bell diameter of 62cm, was first photographed in local waters by Jeffrey and Arnold Sciberras. It has since been spotted a number of times along Malta’s northeast coast.

The tropical Australian spotted jellyfish has reached local waters for the first time. Photo courtesy of Bruno RodriguesThe tropical Australian spotted jellyfish has reached local waters for the first time. Photo courtesy of Bruno Rodrigues

This arrival marks the third non-indigenous jellyfish species to be recorded in local waters in the past decade. The upside-down jellyfish (Cassiopea andromeda) and the nomadic jellyfish (Rhopilema nomadica) are the other two, which were first recorded in local waters in 2010 and 2011, respectively. All three species of jellyfish have a tropical origin, with the Australian spotted jellyfish being native of the western Pacific, such as eastern Australia and the Philippines.

Contrary to the nomadic jellyfish, this latest arrival is not considered to be a hazard in terms of the potency of its sting. But even though its sting is mild one, the Australian spotted jellyfish is still considered to have a major environmental impact in view of its high invasiveness and impact on fisheries.

Besides the Mediterranean basin, the species has also found its way to the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. In the Mediterranean, the species was first recorded in Israel in 1965, but it has now established self-sustaining populations in several localities, including Tunisia and Greece.

In North American waters, the species is considered a threat to  commercial fisheries as it feeds on the eggs and larvae of fish, crab and shrimp. It also clogs fishing nets, damages boat intakes and fishing gear and can cause the closure of productive areas to fishing activities.

Scientists speculate that it may be spread through ships’ ballast water or via polyps attached to ship hulls.


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