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Environmental Crime Legal Framework In Malta

Until 2016, The main source of environmental law in Malta was the Environment and Development Planning Act, Chapter 504 ("EDPA"). This legislation makes it the duty of the Government of Malta and every person to protect the environment (Article 3, EDPA. The Malta Environment and Planning Authority ("MEPA") was established by virtue of Article 6 of the EDPA. In terms of Article 7(1)(a) of the EDPA, "the Authority shall be the principal means whereby the Government shall implement its duties under this Act".

Featured Legislation

1990: The Structure Plan for the Maltese Islands was developed, integrating planning systems that regulate the sustainable use and management of land and sea resources.

2000: The Malta Resources Authority Act was adopted, overseeing regulatory functions relating to water, energy, and mineral resources.

2000: The Malta Resources Authority was set up  through the Malta Resources Act to regulate water, energy and mineral resources, to promote energy efficiency and renewables, and with responsibilities in oil exploration and climate change.

2001: The Fisheries Conservation and Management Act was instituted. The legislation makes provisions for the regulation, conservation and management of the fisheries of Malta and for matters incidental thereto.

2001: The Plant Quarantine Act was ratified, making provisions for public control of external trade of plants and planting material and with a view to controlling plant pests and diseases, and introducing measures to prevent or eradicate such pests and diseases.

2003: Protected Zones (Surveys) Regulations were approved. These regulations have been made on the basis of article 32 (1) (s) of the Plant Quarantine Act, which empowers the Minister to establish rules as to the setting up of protected zones.

2004: The Fishing Vessels Regulations (L.N. 407) were unveiled. Pursuant to the Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, 2001, these Regulations set out rules governing the licensing and registration of fishing vessels. Every vessel being used for fishing shall be licensed and registered in the Fishing Vessels Register. Moreover, fishing vessels of six metres over in length shall also be registered under the Merchant Shipping Act. Inspections shall be carried out prior to first registrations and renewals. The fishing vessels of all categories in the Fishing Vessel Register which are less than six metres in length shall not be allowed to carry out fishing activities or related activities beyond 12 nautical miles. The fishing vessels of six metres or over in length are allowed to fish in all fishing waters as well as in international waters or convention waters as indicated in the licence. Further provisions regard safety equipment to be kept on board (reg. 14), satellite monitoring system (reg. 16), official markings (reg. 17), observers on board (reg. 21), offences and related penalties (reg. 22).

2014: The Food and Nutrition Policy and Action Plan was unveiled. It is an intersectoral document covering the period 2015-2020, which addresses the main public health challenge facing the Maltese Nation in the area of nutrition and food security that are associated with diet-related noncommunicable diseases and conditions including obesity, whilst promoting better health and wellbeing for the Maltese population. The instrument promotes healthy nutrition as the basis for healthy behaviors for the population of Malta. In this context, the following objectives are established: to increase the vegetable and fruit intake in the population; to reduce salt intake; to reduce the consumption of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fats and sugars; to address inequalities in food accessibility; to halt and reverse the obesity trend in children, adults and older persons.

2015: The Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development (“SPED") was approved by Parliament, addressing the spatial issues for the Maltese Islands in the coming years.  SPED replaced the 1990 Structure Plan for the Maltese Islands, advancing a more holistic spatial planning approach.

2016: The Development Planning Act (“New Planning Act") was passed, replacing the EDPA.

2016: The Environment Protection Act (“New Environment Protection Act") was signed.

2016: The Environment and Planning Review Tribunal Act (“New Review Tribunal Act") was introduced. These three laws signaled a ‘demerger’ of MEPA. Now, the ‘planning regime’ was  administered by a new Planning Authority (the “PA"), whose primary function was  building capacity for sanitary matters. Environmental protection, on the other hand, was now assigned to a newly established autonomous entity, namely, the Environment and Resources Authority (the “ERA"), according to (Article 7(2)(a) of the Development Planning Act, 2016. The new Environment and Planning Review Tribunal Act was now charged with the task of hearing and determining appeals from decisions taken by authorities regarding violations of said legislation.  Other entities emerged as a result of the ‘demerger’ – namely,  the Regulator for Energy and Water Services (the “REWS"), the Malta Resources Authority (the “MRA") and the Sustainable Energy and Water Conservation Unit (the “SEWCU"). The New Environment Protection Act stated that it is the duty of everyone together with the Government to protect the environment and to assist in the taking of preventive and remedial measures to protect the environment and manage natural resources in a sustainable manner.  The Act also enshrines the principle that it is the Government’s duty to protect the environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • In 2017: The Maltese presidency advanced the EU’s agenda to map out the nation’s priorities to tackle organized crime. Home Affairs Minister, Carmelo Abela, revealed that environmental crime was one of the more profitable offshoots of organized crime, posing detrimental consequences on human health, biodiversity, climate change and the economy. Addressing a panel of European experts part of the environmental crime law enforcement network meeting in Malta, Abela lamented that environmental crime is not prioritized because of the perception it is a victimless crime. Efforts have been made to bring together national police forces and agencies, according to Roel Willekens, chair of Envicrimenet. Environmental crime also disrupts the economic balance of Malta, with illegal waste management and the illegal trade of animals being cited as the most prominent environmental crimes in the country. Envicrimenet is in the process of sharing intelligence and information between national agencies involved in combating environmental crimes in order to build capacity in law enforcement.

References and Further Reading


Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning, Aaron Farrugia: