As Tunisian fish-poachers plague Maltese fishermen, the government has announced that the Armed Forces of Malta will be launching the lampuki (dolphinfish) patrols in international waters.
These patrol ships will be “conducting surveillance in both territorial and international waters in order to fulfil fisheries’ obligations as part of Malta’s routine fishery controls,” the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture (DFA) within the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights said.
These routine fishery patrols are not exclusively targeted towards any particular country, but are specifically focused on FADs (Fishing Aggregated Devices) in international waters, the ministry confirmed.
Lampuki fishermen use a particular piece of equipment called a kannizzatta that is personalised to each fisherman. However, once someone takes the catch from the kannizzatta, it becomes much less effective, seeing as the fish would have grown aware of its position. Therefore, fishermen whose catch has been stolen are often left empty-handed.
The ministry said it would be ensuring that it is “prohibited for a contracting party (CPC) vessel to catch fish attracted by a Fishing Aggregated Device (FAD) that has not been set by this CPC vessel”. It is thus unlawful for Tunisian vessels to fish on FADs deployed by Maltese vessels, and vice versa.”
Maltese fisherman have been raising the alarm over Tunisian fishermen they claim are attacking them, even ramming their boats and threatening them with Molotov cocktails, with one feared boat reportedly named the Bin Laden.
Fisherman had said they had previously called the AFM for help when facing these pirates, but were told to come back to land and file a report, essentially leaving them helpless.
However, it now seems that the AFM patrol boats promised to fishermen last August may finally be deployed, and have asked for fisherman to provide as much evidence and footage as they can to help authorities, especially if the acts are being done in international waters, and not Maltese waters.
In addition to this, Malta’s Foreign Affairs Ministry is also reaching out bilaterally to Tunisia with the objective of solving these repeated attacks