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The Maltese Fisheries Management Zone (FMZ)

 

In 1971, Malta declared an Exclusive Fishing Zone (EFZ) that extended to 25 nautical miles (NM) from the baselines of the Maltese Islands (Act XXXII of 1971), in accordance with the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea. With the entry of Malta into the European Union in 2004, this zone was maintained as a Fisheries Management Zone (FMZ) around the Maltese Islands by EU Council Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 813/2004 of 26.04.2004). The Malta EFZ, the first of its kind in the Mediterranean, has an overall area of 6735 km2.

The key aim of the Malta FMZ is to protect the fisheries resources of Malta’s sea area and the ecosystems on which they depend. During the accession negotiations with the EU, Malta presented to the EU a number of studies which showed the negative effects that purse-seining and industrial long-lining (two very intensive fishing methods), as practised by EU fishers, would have in the Maltese EFZ area if this was opened up to these fishery types. The EU recognized the conflict that exists between these intensive fishing methods and the less intensive passive fishing operations practised to that date by the Maltese fishing fleet. For this reason, the EU agreed that when Malta becomes a member state, sustainable fishing in the previous EFZ would be safeguarded through the setting up of a Fisheries Management Zone and the implementation of a variety of management actions. Thus, the Malta FMZ in effect functions as a ‘marine protected area’ albeit of a new type for the Mediterranean. 

Maltese_25NM_FMZ 

  [Adapted from : Camilleri et al. (2008) MedSudMed Technical Documents] 

 

The measures adopted for the management of resources within the FMZ are designed to limit fishing effort and capacity by restricting size and engine power of fishing vessels.  In particular, only vessels smaller than 12 m are allowed to fish within the zone since these are considered as boats which practise small scale coastal fishing and which are therefore least harmful to the ecological regime within the zone.

However, since the agreed measures do not discriminate between Maltese and EU fishers, Maltese fishers who own boats larger than 12 m will not be able to continue fishing in the 25 NM zone as they had done in the past. Less than 50 boats were affected by this new regulation and the Maltese Government provided these fishers with financial aid to upgrade their equipment and enhance their fishing efficiency in order to start fishing outside the zone

By way of exception to the above arrangement, four types of fishing activities are nevertheless allowed within the Malta 25 nm FMZ by vessels that may be larger than 12 m. These are the following: 

 

a) Trawling 

Trawling in designated areas within the FMZ is allowed, although the total trawling capacity within the 25 NM zone is not be allowed to increase from its pre-EU membership level. The size limitation of trawlers has been set at 24 m. This means that only trawlers smaller than 24 m will be allowed to trawl in specified areas within the FMZ; this measure is designed to conserve existing ‘refugia’ and fragile benthic ecosystems. As a further restriction, in areas where the depth of the sea floor is less than 200 m, such as on Hurd Bank, as well as being smaller than 24 m, trawlers must also have an engine capacity that does not exceed 185 kW. There can be no further registration of trawlers, either local or foreign, for fishing in the FMZ.  

 

Maltese_25NM_Trawlable 

The Maltese 25NM FMZ showing trawlable zones 

                                                                        [Adapted from: Camilleri et al. (2008) MedSudMed Technical Documents 13]

 

b) Fishing for Lampuki

The Maltese authorities have, for many years, maintained a management regime specifically for the Dolphin Fish (Corphaena hippurus; in Maltese ‘Lampuki’) fishery, since fishing operations take place partly within 25 NM of the coastline (usually starting at 7 NM). The Maltese Government issues permits for Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) that are laid in the sea along straight-line courses. There are around 130 possible locations where these FAD lines may be placed around the Maltese Islands. In recent years, Maltese fishers have taken up around 110 of these courses. Any FAD lines that remain vacant are available to any EU fishers who may wish to apply for a permit to fish for lampuki within the Malta FMZ. There is no size restriction on vessels fishing for lampuki. Consequently, a boat that is larger than 12 m can fish for lampuki in the FMZ during the lampuki season. However, only Maltese fishermen will be allowed to fish for lampuki within territorial waters (12 NM from Maltese shores).

 

c) Lampara fishing 

There is no restriction on lampara fishing. This is small-scale pelagic purse seining that consists of fishing with a net that closes up around schools of fish such as Bogue (Boops boops) and Mackerel (Trachurus spp.) that are attracted towards the boats with the aid of a bright light. This type of fishing is dying out locally and there are very few fishers who still practice it in Malta. Lampara fishing in other EU countries mainly targets anchovies and sardines

 

d) Fishing for tuna, swordfish and other highly migratory fish

Migratory fish do not fall within the remit of the FMZ, since, being migratory, they are not a resource particular to the area.

Efficient monitoring and control of the activities of vessels within the Malta FMZ is supported by an electronic Vessel Monitoring System (VMS). Vessels over 24 m in length along with those vessels over 12 m in length that are authorised to carry out fishing operations within the FMZ are obliged to carry the required electronic tracking equipment on board at all time.

 Types_of_fishing_boats_arranged

                           MPV                                              Luzzu                                        Kajjik

Modern and traditional Maltese fishing vessels (photo © Matthew Camilleri, 2005) 

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Last Updated: 29 November 2011

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