Sandro’s Monaco: as if tomorrow never comes


Having an area of 2.02 square kilometres, the principality of Monaco is around 58 per cent the size of Comino, which has an area of 3.50 square kilometres. Monaco is home to 38,000 persons: Comino having only one resident!

There is practically no ODZ in Monaco: in fact land development there is so intensive that it has been taking up small chunks of the Mediterranean along its coastline which it has been reclaiming since way back in 1880 in order to make up for a lack of land for development.

Malta Development Association (MDA) President Sandro Chetcuti is on record as stating that Malta’s future ought to be one that follows the path traced by Monaco. This, in my opinion, signifies just one thing: the development of every possible square metre of these islands.

The building development lobby is only concerned about today: making hay (today) while the sun shines. Sandro Chetcuti believes that the Monaco blueprint is the only realistic one. This is a vision very similar to Joseph Muscat’s “Dubaification” of the Maltese islands: a vision of high rises and land reclamation.

Chetcuti and Muscat sing from the same song sheet. They think and act as if tomorrow never comes. Development cannot stop, maintains Chetcuti, as “many” would be hurt. The “many”, obviously, being those seeking to make hay, while their sun still shines. They are aware that, at some point, their sun will set and hence they will no longer be able to make hay. Until such a day comes, should they be allowed to ruin everywhere?

Tomorrow will come, and the sun will rise again only for us to realise that we have increased substantially the problems bequeathed to future generations.

Obviously, the point about Monaco which sets Chetcuti ticking is that practically all its 2.02 square kilometres is an urban area. Monaco has no ODZ which can be taken up by rationalisation schemes to increase its building stock. Instead, it reclaims land from the sea and thus slowly adding to its land mass over the years.

The concrete jungle developing all around us is suffocating. It is fuelled by a building development industry which has no idea of where to stop and which wants more land for development.

It is about time that the building industry is cut down to size. We  should all realise, before it is too late, that the ongoing building spree is unsustainable and that progress is not measured in terms of buildings, roads or the enormous number of cars on our roads.

Our quality of life is actually measured through the open spaces we can enjoy and through rediscovering our natural roots, which have been obliterated through the ever- expanding urban boundaries.

The building industry is bent on producing more hay while the sun shines: on building more and more until such time that the Dubaification policy of the present government remains in implementation. Unfortunately the resulting “hay-fever” is being inflicted on all of us.

The sun rises for everyone, not just for those seeking to make hay, and when it sets, we rest – preparing for the morrow and hoping that, when it comes, we will still be in time to repair the extensive damage being done to us all.

(note cartoon published in Malta Today)

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 5 August 2018

sustainable ……but….. á la carte

published February 20, 2010 under the title :

“Sustainable ….. but … a way.”


When the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Conference of the Parties meets in Doha next March it will consider a proposal that will mean that international trading of bluefin tuna will be banned.

The European Parliament, on February 10, approved a motion for a resolution, which, among other matters, urged the EU Commission and member states to support the ban on international trade in bluefin tuna in view of the depletion of natural stocks of this species.

A total of 320 MEPs voted in favour; 271 voted against. Four of the Maltese MEPs voted against the ban and the fifth, David Casa, was absent when voting took place.

The ban is being proposed as bluefin tuna is on the verge of extinction. It is being fished at a rate far above its natural regeneration. The Principality of Monaco stressed, when presenting its submissions justifying the ban back in July 2009, that coordinated intervention is long overdue.

The Principality of Monaco has argued that bluefin tuna stock in the Mediterranean has declined by more than 74 per cent between 1957 and 2007, the bulk of it in the last decade. Meanwhile, tuna stock in the west Atlantic has plunged by 83 per cent between 1970 and 2007.

The ban will affect industrial fishing and tuna ranching. It will not affect fishing for bluefin tuna for local consumption. It will, undoubtedly, affect large-scale fishing, including those operations based in Maltese waters. Lobbying on behalf of these operators and their Japanese partners has been very evident. The political positions taken by a number of Mediterranean countries, including Malta, is also clearly the result of lobbying by the industry, which has wide interests straddling opposite shores of the Mediterranean.

The Principality of Monaco in the draft resolution submitted to the CITES Secretariat for discussion during the Doha Conference of the Parties stated that, notwithstanding recommendations by the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) that tuna catches should not exceed 15,000t per annum, quotas far in excess of this recommendation were approved: 22,000t for 2009, 19,950t for 2010 and 18,500t for 2011.

The Principality of Monaco also emphasised that it is known that the international fishing fleet capacity is, at least, double that needed to catch the current legal quota, which fact leads to serious doubts on quota enforcement and the under-reporting of catches.

The average size of the bluefin tuna has been reduced substantially over the years from 220kg to 145kg as overfishing is not permitting tuna to develop to its mature size.

Japan, a major consumer, consumes 43,000t of bluefin tuna annually. Half of this is acquired from the Pacific Ocean, the rest from other parts of the world.

It is a known fact that quotas are widely ignored and only a ban on international trade will allow stocks to recover. This will take time to be achieved.

The international environmental NGO WWF, through its Mediterranean Programme, has since 2008 embarked on a programme aimed at saving the Mediterranean bluefin tuna from extinction. It has adopted a three-pronged approach, namely addressing fishing methods, consumer awareness and through lobbying national governments in order that they observe the agreed quotas. The programme is ongoing and it aims to improve the management measures recommended by scientists.

Opposition to the ban is short-sighted politics. It is myopic as it focuses on short-term economic gains and ignores the long-term social, economic and ecological impacts of the collapse of tuna stocks. The social impacts on families dependent on international trade in bluefin tuna have to be addressed through adequate social programmes as their livelihood is in peril due to its depending on an unsustainable activity. Opposition to the ban will not, however, do them any good as it will just postpone facing the music by not more than five years.

Malta has been one of the states resisting the international demand for an international trade ban on bluefin tuna. The Maltese government has opposed the call for such a ban in all fora. Even the opposition Labour Party has supported the PN-led government in defending the unsustainable fishing of bluefin tuna. Maltese MEPs have obliged by taking a stand against the ban.

Yet, both the PN and the PL in Malta speak in favour of sustainable development. Most probably they mean sustainable… but… á la carte, that is, speaking profusely about it but simultaneously proceeding with business as usual.

The Greens in Malta have been the only political voice in favour of sustainable fishing, in favour of protecting marine biodiversity as well as defending traditional fishing methods in opposition to the havoc generated by industrial fishing.

It is too late in the day to expect the government to be consistent. The Labour opposition is no better.