Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Malta Scuba Divers Petitioning for Ċirkewwa Marine Sanctuary

The Ċirkewwa harbor is situated on a point at the northernmost part of Malta.

The Maltese diving community has begun circulating a petition and is organising an awareness-raising campaign urging the authorities to declare Cirkewwa a marine sanctuary.

Experienced diver Antonio Anastasi, who is leading the initiative, told The Malta Independent on Sunday that the area inevitably attracts both divers and fishermen because of two important wrecks − the P29 patrol boat and the Rozi tugboat, which attract large numbers of fish to lay their eggs there.

Although Cirkewwa automatically became a protected area when Malta joined the EU, divers still have to resort to calling the Police Force’s Administrative Law Enforcement (ALE) unit to deal with infringements on an almost daily basis.

“Unfortunately, illegal fishing activities take place even during the night. Illicit fishing includes activities like spear fishing, as well as the laying of trammel nets (pariti) among others,” said Mr Anastasi.

“And the law does not protect this area as a no take zone. The law states that only spear fishing and the laying of trammel nets in the demarcated area of wrecks is prohibited, leaving huge gaps for other infringements such as the taking of sea urchins, octopus or lobster with one’s bare hands, or divers lifting souvenirs from the seabed,” he continued.

Other illegalities include dynamite fishing and the use of fishing gear including bottom lines, gill nets, entangling and encircling nets, demersal pots and traps.

Apart from destroying the habitats on which fish stocks depend, these activities can cause serious or even fatal accidents to divers in the area.

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