Fish Market Data Collection
Unfortunately, the Marsa fish market is the one place in Malta that you are guaranteed to find elasmobranchs. This provides a valuable source of data regarding elasmobranch populations, and an opportunity to collect shark eggs for our Oviparous species recovery and release program.
Why research at the fish market?
The fish market is the one place where you can validate which species are being brought in from the fishermen, and sold on, to be consumed within the Islands. Malta has a long history of eating many different species of elasmobranch and although you won’t find “Shark Steaks” in the local restaurants, you will find many species on sale on the fish vans almost daily. The consumption of shark, skate and rays in Malta is common place, especially with the older generations, and using their purchases they make a wide variety of different dishes.
What happens after the sale is not what we are interested in with our research at the market.
What research are we doing?
There are many reasons for gathering data from the Fish Market, but the most important aspects of research at the moment can be split into two categories;
1. Identification and counting of species on sale
The first category is a simple case of accurately logging all species and quantities of sharks, skates, rays and chimaera being brought to the market for sale. Gathering this data helps to validate the presence of these species within Maltese waters and the immediate surrounding Mediterranean. It also allows the opportunity to study in more detail, a physical sample of some of the species we know inhabit or travel through Maltese waters.
We can take the opportunity to gather information on the types of fishing equipment used and the areas that certain species are being caught.
This area of research, also allows us to assist in the control of protected species, as we are extra eyes at the market. Any protected species seen on sale can be reported to the Maltese Fisheries Protection Officers, who are present at the market, and are in a position to respond to the problem. Sellers who are trying to sell protected species can be dealt with in many different ways, which include the species on sale being confiscated, fines imposed or even licences revoked.
This research is hands-on sampling of boxes of sharks, skates and rays to determine an exact log of species, length and sex.
2. Eggcase collection as part of the "Oviparous species recovery and release program"
The second category is the “Oviparous species recovery and release program” started in 2011 with the discovery of a single fertilised encapsulated egg from a Smallspotted Catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula) and has now through this project led to the release of over 350 sharks back into the waters around Malta.
More information on the recovery of eggs from sharks and skates can be found here.
What other research do we conduct at the fish market?
As well as the research being carried out at the main market at Marsa, we also visit the Marsaxxlokk market to see what is being sold. This market is very popular with tourists and often fish on sale are direct from local fishermen, as well as fish purchased through the wholesale market in Marsa. During visits we have on occasions found that some species of sharks are, in fact, sold under a misleading name. For example Blue Shark or Ħuta Kaħla (Maltese) has been seen several times on sale as Aċċola (Maltese) which in fact is Amberjack. This is not only illegal, but also simply confuses the buyer as to what it is they are purchasing.
Hopefully, in time our awareness campaigns and education programs will highlight these problems and changes will be made.
If you want to get involved with the research work being carried out at the market in Marsa or would like to visit Marsaxxlokk market to gather important information, then please join us and get involved.
Be part of making a difference here in the Mediterranean.