Algarve MP on case of “3 x 6 sq kms of sea” blocked from Sotovento fishermen

Algarve MP Cristóvão Norte has pledged to try and do something about yet another “fishing disgrace” that affects the Algarve’s embattled ‘small boat’ fleet.

Faced perennially with rules and regulations that massively complicate their lives, fishermen living on the islands of Culatra and Armona – as well as mainland colleagues in Olhão and Fuseta – have been prohibited since 2008 from fishing on a stretch of water a mile-and-a-half out to sea because it is ring-fenced for ‘aquaculture’.

Frustration centres on the fact that over the space of nine years, only a fraction of the 60 ‘lotes’ that make up the area have been put to use.

Pro-active president of Culatra’s residents association Sílvia Padinha explained: “It’s an area that allows for boats from not only Culatra but Olhão and Fuseta to fish without there being any kind of conflict.”

Instead, the “immense area” sees just 25 lotes farmed by the tuna business Tunipex.

It is time, says Padinha, for the government “to give back what it stole from local fishermen”.

A fierce defender of traditional fishing rights, Padinha has been fighting this issue for years.

It is yet another example of some of the fragilities of Portugal’s “policies of the sea”.

When the area was given over to aquaculture (fish farming) projects, interest was high, explains tabloid Correio da Manhã, but “almost all ideas failed due to the inability to raise the necessary investment”.

Culatra’s call to see the area returned to fishing boats is “being analysed” by the environment ministry, but no time-frame for a decision has been forthcoming.

Thus Thursday’s “Dia do Pescador” (Fisherman’s Day) saw a flotilla of boats set out to mark a new protest.

As a result, Algarve MP (PSD) Cristóvão Norte has pledged to bring the matter up again in parliament.

Writing in response to Padinha on Facebook, he said the cause makes “perfect sense. There is no justification to prohibit an area that has been left to abandon”.

CM explains, for instance, that there are 12 lotes which were awarded to the Companhia de Pescaria do Algarve for the cultivation of mussels.

“No one has been seen doing anything there for two years,” fisherman Rui Conceição told the paper. “The mussels are all rotten…”

In fact, the ‘abandonment’ of the area has led to signal buoys breaking their moorings and becoming hazards for boats as they pass nearby.

Last week’s protest has thus created a small victory. Eyes now are on what Cristóvão Norte may be able to achieve.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]