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.
Norte’s visit will conclude after meeting representatives of fishing organisations who again will point out that the sewage problem has been growing worse for at least 7 years, has been subject to frequent complaint and is hardly a new situation.
"You can not sweep the issue of pollution under the carpet and any worthwhile solution must not ignore inefficient sewage treatment plants, and certainly not turn a blind eye to illegal discharges," said Norte this week in Lisbon after questioning the Secretary of State for maritime matters on this choice topic. Norte wanted to know and understand the reasons that led to the reclassification of shellfish production areas in the Ria Formosa which has affected many of the 2,000 people whose income depends on the shellfish and fishing trades.
Cristóvão Norte recognises that "public health is a core value that can not be compromised and that it is vital that the reputation of high quality products from the Ria Formosa is not hurt," adding that "we must proceed to minimise the damage resulting to communities that are highly dependent on the Ria Formosa for their survival."
The Secretary of State has committed to use the fishermens' relief fund for those affected, has commented that the reclassification of shellfish beds is not yet complete, and that he is to speed up the measures set out in the Programme of Action for Improving Water Quality the Ria Formosa.
Many locals are surprised that such a programme of action exists and find it hard to reconcile this laudable initiative with the pumping of partially treated sewage mixed with chemicals into the waters of an area that is designated as one of outstanding natural beauty and amenity.
The mention of the relief fund will not impress Ria Formosa locals as the last time this political trick was wheeled out by Minister Assunçao Cristas after a months long fishing ban threatened locals with malnutrition, the parlous amount eventually handed out many months later drew ridicule from many quarters.