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.
The meeting included the Mayor of Olhão, António Pina (PS), and the socialist MP for Faro, Miguel Freitas.
"We all share the opinion that public health must be defended, of course, but I do not think there has been any concern with balancing the economic and social interests that are at stake here," said the MEP and former minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, saying all the right things.
The government edict reclassified over 90% of the A rated shellfish areas, whose production can be consumed directly by the public, to B or C.
Associations and unions warned that the sector employs around 2,000 people who no longer can sell their stock to consumers due to the alleged presence of bacteria that could affect public health.
"Today's meeting with industry representatives confirmed our apprehensions, and continue to raise doubts as to the reliability and credibility of the analyses on which these decisions have been made,” said Capoulas Santos who now expects the Government to review the edict, believing that it has "some willingness to correct some of the more negative aspects of this decision."
Capoulas Santos stressed that he would not baulk at taking the problem to the European Union if the government does not satisfactorily "minimise the impact.”
The local fishermen know full well that the pollution levels have steadily been increasing for years as the sewage treatment service is inadequate to handle to volumes produced.
Overflows of sewage and chemical accelerants are still being pumped into the highly sensitive Ria Formosa area, and whether the EC testing was accurate or not, the fact that this nationally important area has sewage pumped anywhere near its pristine beaches and wildlife habitats is a skidmark on the council’s bedsheet.
The mayor remains silent on this point which is interesting as the problem as well as the solution lies in his hands.