Updated 5.10pm - Health authorities confiscate fish  

Xemxija’s would-be storm fishermen were back in the water on Monday morning, as they tried to cash in on their Sunday storm catches. [sea breem] mix Xemxija'.

Photo: FacebookPhoto: Facebook

Buckets of sea bream were being offered for €10 for every 5 fish - €20 for 10 – when a Times of Malta photographer visited the promenade on Monday morning.

Several hours after Times of Malta broke the news, environmental health authorities issued a statement saying "a number" of fish had been confiscated and warning that eating the fish might not be safe. 

The sea bream being sold was caught by plucky pedestrians in Xemxija, who braved Sunday's storm and ignored warnings to stay indoors to pick fish off the ground. 

Some of the eager fishermen took things a step further and risked their lives to get an extra fish or two and had to be dragged out of the rough seas by some of their companions.

On Monday morning, more men were seen wading into significantly calmer seas to pick up more of the washed up fish. 

Fish safety 'cannot be guaranteed'

In a statement, environmental health authorities warned that fish caught in this way could be unsafe. There was no way of knowing whether it was alive or dead when caught, authorities said, and it could have been kept in unsanitary conditions.

The fish could also have been exposed high levels of medical treatments at the fish farm they came from (see below) and could only considered safe once a withdrawal period is exceeded.

For sale - and for free

Well before authorities issued the warning, some local restaurants were capitalising on the unexpected catches: on Monday morning, at least one was offering a tongue-in-cheek daily special of 'Fresh awrat [sea bream] mix Xemxija'.

Others were more interested in sharing their spoils. 

A group of Syrians living in Malta handed fish out to neighbours and families struggling to get by, Syrian-Maltese social worker Omar Rababah wrote on Facebook. 

"They were offered money for the fish but they refused, because they consider them a blessing from God," he added. 

'It was our sea bream' - fish farm

A fish farm operator confirmed to Times of Malta that the sudden flood of sea bream came from one of their fish pens. 

"We don't know whether the fish were lifted out of the pen by waves or if the pen was ripped in rough weather. The sea is still too rough for us to head out and have a look," said P2M director Robert Aquilina.

The company had had a similar incident in 2012, though it was not as serious.

"This is the worst case we've had in 30 years," he said.    

Mr Aquilina declined to comment on the raft of people who were so keen to get their hands on the fish that got away. 

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