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Killer French virus wipes out 95% of western Algarve's oysters

oysterOyster producers in the western Algarve are up in arms over a government plan that they now must pay 60 cents a kilo to have their devastated stock incinerated.

The Portuguese Association of Aquaculture has demanded an "urgent response" over the question of what happens next to the tons of dead oysters at the Alvor Estuary and Sagres oyster farms after a killer virus from France swept through the nurseries in October.

"We urgently need to know what to do with the tons of shells that are still in nurseries," stated the general secretary of the Portuguese Aquaculture Association, Fernando Gonçalves.

Nine businesses in the Ria de Alvor and 'off-shore' near Sagres, were affected by a virus and a bacterium identified by the Portuguese Institute of the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA) as 'herpes virus' and 'vibrio', respectively, which has killed 95% of oyster production valued at about €3 million.

The representative of the Association said "we are waiting for clarification from the various bodies that oversee the industry about the fate of the shells, since they are a Category 2 by-product, which would mean incineration. However, we consider that the shells without anything left inside should not be classified as such."

In Fernando Gonçalves’ opinion, "the shells pose no danger of contamination and can be used, for example, as hardcore for roads or sent to landfill. Incineration would result in higher costs for producers at around 60 cents per kilogramme."
Rui Ferreira, head of the largest producer of oysters in the Algarve, OstraSelect, said he lost "about 95% of production, €1 million, and that incineration would result in an additional outlay of approximately €150,000."

Ferreira already has had to lay off two members of staff, "We will not invest again without knowing what happened. We will have to work differently, with permanent monitoring plans to have any certainty in the future."

The death of the Algarve’s oysters was due to the diseases being transmitted from infected juvenile oysters imported from France.

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