The environmental association Quercus has demanded that Águas do Algarve builds a new Wastewater Treatment Plant between Faro and Olhão to reduce the pollution currently being released into the waters of the Ria Formosa natural area between Olhão and Faro.
The water company says the new treatment plant has already been started, but with an expected operational date of 'late 2017' - a possible 4 year wait before the Ria Formosa waters again can produce the top quality shellfish for which the area is renowned.
João Ferreira, a Portuguese communist party member of the European Parliament, is to add his weight to resolve the continuing plight of the Ria Formosa fishermen and will address the issues related to the fishing zones in meeetings to be held in Olhão this Friday.
At least half of the shellfish harvesting zones in the Ria Formosa near Olhão have been reclassified as 'Zone B', which allows the sale of seafood after it has been purified.
The B classification now covers another 30% of the shellfish nurseries that has been downgraded by a government edict in response to an EC analysis of the water that showed high levels of pollution.
A new Wastewater Treatment Plant serving Faro and Olhão is to be built earlier than planned. The problem of the illegal dumping of raw and poorly treated sewage currently being pumped into the Ria Formosa area will end after an investment of an estimated €14 million.
The mayor of Olhão, António Pina, already has told the shellfishermen affected by the downgrading of their shellfish nursery beds that, at an Águas do Algarve board meeting last week, it was been decided to begin the process of building a new treatment plant, which will replace two old ones serving Olhão and Faro.
The Social Democrat MP Cristóvão Norte had announced he is to visit Olhão on Saturday. His mission is to understand the reasons for the downgrading of the shellfish nurseries in the Ria Formosa area and to look specifically at the issue of pollution which has been affecting water quality for years.
The fearless Norte will visit the sewage treatment plant to the west of the city and then be shown the various points at which sewage is pumped into the clear waters of the Ria Formosa.
The government was 'hasty' in its decision to downgrade the Ria Formosa shellfish production areas, according to Socialist MEP Capoulas Santos during today's visit to Olhão, adding that the government should first have talked over the situation with the involved authorities and industry representatives.
Capoulas Santos met with representatives of the Ria Formosa shellfish associations who said its members had been shocked by the decision which lacked reason.
António Pina, the mayor of Olhão, is ‘hoping’ that the downgraded production areas for shellfish in the Ria Formosa area of the eastern Algarve can be changed if the the Government intervenes at European Union level.
"We hope that the situation can be changed. The Secretary of State for the Sea has committed himself to intercede with the European Union and negotiate an exception for the Ria Formosa area, or insist that the EU justifies why the area has been downgraded," said Pina.
Producers of the famous Ria Formosa shellfish today protested outside the regional office of the Portuguese Institute of Ocean and Atmosphere, in Olhão .
Yesterday 500 shellfishermen had attended a meeting in Olhão's municipal auditorium to voice their anger at the sudden downgrading of their traditional shellfish harvesting banks which meant that many now are unable to sell their harvest on the open market.