Since the 1970s, Malta has managed a fishing zone of 25 nautical miles surrounding the Maltese archipelago. The first 12 miles are reserved exclusively for Maltese fishermen. The fishing zone is used by the Maltese fishermen but also by operators in the aquaculture sector. Malta’s position in the middle of the Mediterranean make it strategically placed for tuna penning. In fact, statistics published by the National Office of Statistics (NSO) show that the Maltese tuna industry reared 13,000 tones of tuna, valued at circa €170 million, 90% of which was exported to Asian markets.
Tuna (Tonn) – The Atlantic Bluefin tuna is one of the largest, fastest of all worlds fishes. Aquaculture in the Mediterranean region, is based on capture-based industry where they are caught from the wild and fattened in monitored offshore cages. A lot of effort is being put into the spawning production of fish. EU funded projects have advanced techniques that aid the spawning of fish since the early 2000’s. In Malta, three Bluefin Tuna farms operate from a specifically-assigned Aquaculture Zone 6km off the South-eastern coast, while another two farms are located within another offshore aquaculture zone in the North of Malta.
Did you know that: Bluefin tuna is the largest species of tuna.
Sea Bass (Awrata) – The reproduction of seabass is monitored and controlled in hatcheries, using broodstock selected in fish farms. During the spawning cycle, the photomanipulation technique is used. This technique induces sexual behaviour by modifying the period of sunshine via artificial light. The fertilized eggs are collected on the surface of the tank which are eventually placed in incubation tanks that have a hatching time of 48 hours. Rearing of seabass involves a complex approach developed over extensive scientific research. The hatchery’s operations are technical and require skilled staff who have to maintain the proper conditions for larvae growth to ensure that proper environmental conditions are set. Diet of larvae includes seaweed and rotifera. In the weaning stage, larvae are accustomed to a high protein diet. This also includes a high water quality environment to ensure growth and survival rates.
Dolphin Fish (Lampuka) – The dolphin fish is a type of fish commonly found in the Mediterranean waters. It migrates through Maltese waters between end of August and December. It is considered to be one of the most popular autumn seasonal dishes in Malta. The capturing technique is known as kannizzati. Fishermen proceed by cutting down the fronds from palm trees which convert them into large rafts. These rafts are put out sea and are accompanied by fishing boats. When the sun reaches the highest point during the day, the dolphin fish will seek shade under rafts. The fishermen will then proceed by casting a net over the fish to trap them. This old technique is still widely used and has not changed since the Roman era.
Did you know that: In 1 year a lampuka can reach a length of 1 metre and a weight of over 7 kg.
Swordfish (Pixxispad) – Swordfish is another seasonal fish in the Mediterranean. Swordfish prefer water temperatures between 18 to 22 degrees. They are highly migratory which move in cold regions to feed during warm seasons. Swordfish feed in a daily manner, mostly at night reaching surface waters for smaller fish. Swordfish were harvested via number of techniques such as harpoon fishing and long line fishing. The high season for catching swordfish is from July until mid-September. Swordfish is usually served as thick, meaty steaks. Grilled swordfish is the most common way of preparing the fish and for good reason too. Grilling it locks in the natural flavours resulting in a flavoursome, juicy steak. The swordfish is marinated in a mix of local ingredients to compliment the steak such as fresh mint and basil, olive oil, lemon juice and white wine.
John Dory (Pexxi San Pietru) – The John Dory has a thin, oval body with long dorsal spines and a wide mouth; it grows up to 90 cm in length and can reach a weigh of up to 20 kg. There is a dark spot on each side of its yellow to olive-green body. The John Dory can live up to 12 years in the wild. When they reach 3-4 years of age, the fish can start the process of reproduction that happen around the end of winter. These are coastal fish, found on the coasts of many parts of the world including Malta. They live near the seabed, living in depths from 5 metres to 400 meters. They are normally solitary and eat a variety of fish, especially schooling fish, such as sardines.