After Xemxija... 'Nobody is buying our sea bream,' say legitimate fishers
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After Xemxija... 'Nobody is buying our sea bream,' say legitimate fishers

Health warnings spook consumers and hit sales

Hundreds of sea bream were scooped up by opportunistic fishers at Xemxija on Sunday. Photo: Jonathan Borg.

Hundreds of sea bream were scooped up by opportunistic fishers at Xemxija on Sunday. Photo: Jonathan Borg.

Sunday's storm may have been good news for those scooping washed-up fish from the Xemxija seafront, but less so for traditional fishermen struggling to sell their own fish to buyers spooked by health warnings. 

Hundreds of sea bream (awrat) from a nearby fish farm were picked off the ground or fished out of shallow waters on Sunday, prompting health authorities and marine experts to warn that the fish were not necessarily safe to eat. 

Those warnings appear to have had the unintended effect of convincing people to opt against any sea bream for a while, with fishers struggling to sell their own, legitimately caught, fish. 

"Fishers are catching sea bream in the traditional manner, which normally sells at a good price and helps to ease their problems in winter, but right now nobody is buying," representatives of the two fishers' collectives said.

In a joint statement, Marco Carabott from the Koperattiva Nazzjonali tas-Sajd and Joe Demicoli of the Għaqda Kooperativa tas-Sajd urged the media to exercise caution before publishing any statements that could hurt the industry. 

Following the bizarre scenes in Xemxija on Sunday, sea bream was seen on sale at the promenade for as low as €2 a fish at an impromptu and seemingly unsanitary market. 

Environmental health authorities warned that there was no way of knowing whether the fish was alive or dead when caught or whether it had been kept in unsanitary conditions.

Fish could also have been exposed high levels of medical treatments at the fish farm, authorities said, and could only considered safe once a withdrawal period had been exceeded.

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