The tuna industry has, in terms of production and economic results, been a success. Nevertheless, the environmental performance of the last few years, as well as the latest revelations, have cast a serious shadow on the sector.

Since taking up my position with the Federation of Maltese Aquaculture Producers, I took it as my mission to tackle the environmental and regulatory concerns being raised in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of this important pillar of the economy.

Several initiatives have been taken by the federation, specifically targeting these concerns, also with the aim of pre-empting problems rather than reacting to them.

On the environmental front, we are working on a number of initiatives aimed at achieving the long-term sustainability of the aquaculture sector in Malta, in particular we are investing in the development of methodologies aimed at minimising and ideally eliminating the environmental impact of the current farming practices on the marine environment.

As part of these initiatives, the current members of the federation have bound themselves, through a self-regulatory agreement, to implement good farming practices aimed at ensuring that any negative impacts on the environment are kept to a minimum.

Irrespective of the latest findings, the tuna farming industry is one of the most regulated fisheries in the world

We are also actively preparing some projects that are aimed at making use of currently discarded by-products from the tuna industry as part of our waste reduction strategy. We are also actively preparing a number of mea­sures and projects to continue improving our environmental performance.

Irrespective of the latest findings, the tuna farming industry is one of the most regulated fisheries in the world, and the current system is bearing its fruits with respect to the recovery of the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna stocks.

While needing to let the justice system run its course, we have an opportunity to use the latest developments to continue improving the regulatory system for the control of the fishing and farming of Bluefin tuna.

Over the past months, the federation has been working on various proposals aimed at strengthening the control system. It is my vision that while the current system forms the baseline of the regulatory controls, the operators have to take a leading role through initiatives aimed at self-regulating the industry.

There are a number of areas that need improvement which are being tackled; one such example concerns the scientific algorithms used to estimate the size of the fish. We need to update our knowledge so as to have algorithms that are more representative of farmed fish.

The local operators are collaborating with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which is the body regulating the tuna fishery at an international level, for the updating of the current scientific knowledge in this area.

A dark cloud has reached the industry, especially on the Maltese front. It is my mission to steer the sector away from the storm and rise to the occasion to self-improve its performance.

I am sure that we can continue along our path towards a truly sustainable industry.

Charlon Gouder is the executive head of the Federation of Maltese Aquaculture Producers.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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