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Investment continues in Algarve shellfish despite threat from offshore oil

Perfect scene to be close to oil rigsMussel and oyster farms dominate current investment in aquaculture in the Algarve despite an increasing threat from oil companies.

Aquaculture is growing in the Algarve and in the last three months 83 ‘ProMar’ projects have been started with a total investment of €29 million for the production of mussels and oysters, and specialist equipment.

"Aquaculture is firing on all four with a huge demand for this type of investment, mainly to produce mussels and oysters" which then will be exported, according to Fernando Severino, director of the Regional Directorate of Agriculture and Fisheries of the Algarve.

In the current National Strategic Reference Framework (2007 to 2013) there have been around 500 projects approved under ProMar, totaling €56 million in investment.

"There is a sea of ​​opportunities in the economy," said Severino commenting that the sea is not just for fishing in.

There also appears to be a sea of grant money available which naturally will attract people to this sector. Whether there is sufficient demand for their produce at a sustainable price remains for the market to dictate.

"The sea is tourism, the sea is exploitation of other natural resources on the part of bioengineers who will seek materials that do not exist anywhere else, either for medical use or for construction." (He did not explain the 'construction' comment.)

Nationally, the sea is now worth "eight billion" in terms of what it produces, and of these eight billion only half comes from fishing, according to Fernando Severino, who stated that the current attractiveness of the sea is not only for fishing, but also a wider maritime industry, tourism, diving and birdwatching.

The Minister of Agriculture and Sea Assunçao Crestas reinforced her commitment to aquaculture, revealing that the Government will increase the ‘area of exploration.’

According to the minister there are several marked areas for aquaculture farms in the Algarve and 13 projects receiving funding, representing an investment €18 million.

The subject of oil exploration never seems to be mentioned by those who may be affected the most. The Gulbenkian Foundation’s oil company subsidiary, Partex, happy with its exploration surveying, and granted with an exploration drilling licence  for gas and oil (Hydrocarbons) off the Algarve’s coastline, which may well affect these new delicate shellfish farms that have attracted an exceptional amount of grant money. The process of drilling creates pollution from the mud’s and lubricants that are expelled into the sea, a degree of pollution will occur when drilling starts and the coastline will be at risk from oil spills should oil be drilled.

The Gulbenkian Foundation in the meantime in a damage limitation exercise has launched the 'Oceans Initiative’ ostensibly to evaluate the worth and wealth of Portugal’s offshore natural assets such as aquaculture and maritime tourism. This has placed the laudable foundation in a moral dilemma as it receives profits from the very oil company, Partex, that is close to erecting oil rigs and pumping hydrocarbons off the Algarve’s pristine coastline.

The Gulbenkian Foundation's communications department head, Elisabete Caramelo, has felt unable to issue any comment, credible or incredible, as to the Gulbenkian Foundation's awkward position of being funded by an oil company yet launching its 'Oceans Initiative' which many suspect will be a whitewash as to the dangers and economic disbenefits of oil rigs off the Algarve's coastline. 

"The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation will not provide any official comments for now, but soon there will be some information about this matter," was the last communication from Gulbenkian on October 3rd.

Editors and readers wait for an explanation.

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