The dreaded fish farm sludge which plagued Maltese beaches over the past summers cannot be eliminated completely, Environment Minister José Herrera has acknowledged.

“What we did will not exclude sludge. It will minimise it,” the minister tells Times Talk. “Every economic activity comes with a cost. The point is sustainability.”
Dr Herrera points to the decision to move tuna pens offshore as the ideal solution to balance the needs of the fish farm industry and those of Malta’s tourists and bathers.

In this Times Talk interview, Dr Herrera argues that Malta’s historically blase’ approach towards environmental matters was rooted in its societal priorities.

In what is arguably a zero-sum perspective towards environmental conservation, Malta’s Environment Minister insists that it was only natural for economic growth to take precedence in recent years.

“It’s useless having the best environment if people are out of work,” he says, before going on to argue that political priorities are gradually taking on a greener hue.

The minister says he’s finding more cabinet support than he might have expected, though he tacitly acknowledges that the environment is hardly at the top of every minister’s list of priorities.

“Every minister tends to pull the rope in their favour,” he says.

Dr Herrera is also candid in acknowledging that enforcement on environmental issues is far from optimal. In an admission that reflects poorly on his predecessor, the Environment Minister agrees that the Environment and Resources Authority “was and is a paper tiger” – essentially echoing criticism voiced by Malta’s former Environmental Commissioner David Pace, who repeatedly decried the environmental regulator as “toothless”.

The Environment Minister is, however, confident that this sorry state of affairs is about to come to an end. In the coming weeks, he says, the ERA will get its own enforcement directorate, meaning it will no longer have to go begging to its Planning Authority big brother every time it needs to crack the whip.

Watch the full Times Talk interview with Jose’ Herrera in the video above.


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