A gale force wind and rough seas wreaked havoc yesterday, destroying a tuna farm holding €7.4 million worth of fish.

Four cages used to harvest about 600 tonnes of tuna were completely destroyed by Force 6 winds. By yesterday afternoon they had drifted up to one mile away from their moorings.

The farm, situated five miles out at sea to the east of Valletta, belongs to Ta' Mattew Fish Farms Ltd.

Owner Ray Bugeja said most of the fish escaped or died.

Speaking to The Times from his boat, Mr Bugeja said five fishing vessels were out at sea trying to salvage what remained of the stock but the bad weather hampered their efforts.

"Most of the tuna is either dead or have escaped out to sea. At this year's market prices we estimate to have lost €7.4 million," Mr Bugeja said.

The damage was reported yesterday afternoon when it was noticed that cages were damaged and the moorings had snapped. The whole fish farm drifted from its position and the owners had to inform Valletta Port Control to urge caution from ships that might sail through the area.

"It will take us days to lift the anchors and repair some of the damage caused. We have five boats out at sea but it is not easy to work in gale force winds," Mr Bugeja said, adding no one was injured in the incident.

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