Sunday, January 4, 2015

Malta Aquaculture/Hatchery Tour

Several months ago, we learned of a turtle rehabilitation program in Malta. Upon further digging, we contacted the Malta Aquaculture Research Center (MARC) to see about visiting. The center is located in an old Fort San Lucjan in the south of Malta near Marsaxlokk. While the fort had a plenty interesting history of its own (built around 1610), it now houses a fish hatchery and learning center on Maltese aquaculture, as well as temporarily housing injured sea turtles in need of rehabilitation. This to us, is REALLY interesting and made for a great morning a few weeks ago.

The center opens once a week, on Saturdays, to offer educational guided tours (10AM & 11AM) to the public. We and one other gentlemen were beyond happy to make the tour, though I erroneously rang the bell prematurely (do NOT ring the bell). I think our enthusiasm redeemed the bell ringing faux pa.

The girls stayed amazingly interested, learning about the hatchery side (sea bream, sea bass) and the rehabilitation of injured sea animals. We also learned about sea cucumber and urchin breeding programs for the Asian markets, as well as seafront cage/pens to spawn tuna and amberjack. The programs this small center is conducting were not only interesting, but are wonderful conservation efforts. The center also works with local endemic species, being sure they thrive and endure even through inhospitable climate changes. Killifish programs are especially well tended by the curator here.
(rearing pools and the girls "keeping busy" during educational speech)
(seeing the eggs/roe from the breeding tanks, very cool though Ceti's face might say otherwise)
 (above- educational charts, below- tanks and the rear of the fort) 
 (this turtle was rescued at sea; he is unable to dive and right himself in the water. Nature Trust Malta is treating him and is experimenting with weights on his shell to help with swim stability and diving. He may never be able to be released back into the wild sea if he cannot dive for food again.)
 (hatcheries and adult breeding wing)
We completely enjoyed the morning and learning about the fishes at the hatchery. I was just happy to talk fish and aquariums with Mr. Caruana, who was beyond patient and fun on our outing. We've been invited to return in the spring for a different view of the facility. We'll definitely return!!

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