Shellfish producers refuse to pay “60 cents per kilo” to burn dead stock

fter seeing their stock devastated by two deadly viruses in October, shellfish farmers in the western Algarve are now outraged that they face the prospect of paying 60 cents per kilo to “incinerate” their stock.

“We’re waiting for clarification from the authorities,” Fernando Gonçalves, the head of the Portuguese Aquaculture Association, told Lusa news agency.

“As bivalves are a category 2 by-product, they should (by law) be incinerated. However, we consider that the shells should not be classified as such.”

As the Resident reported in October, 10 companies are facing bankruptcy due to deadly toxins that killed hundreds of tons of shellfish in Ria de Alvor and Sagres (see Deadly toxin threatens survival of Ria de Alvor shellfishing industry).

Gonçalves says that burning shells would simply cost too much for producers who have already lost hundreds of thousands of euros in sales.

Instead, the shells could be used to in-fill roads or be sent to landfill sites, he said.

He added that producers “urgently need to know what to do” as the shells are still being kept in the farms.

Rui Ferreira, head of the largest producer of oysters in the Algarve, OstraSelect, said he has lost “about 95% of production, worth about €1 million”.

Compulsory incineration could be the final nail in his company’s coffin, he said, as it does not have the €150,000 needed to carry it out.

As Ferreira explains, he has already had to lay off two workers and cannot predict whether his business will continue unless he receives a guarantee that his stock will not be wiped out again.

Producers have been told that two viruses – ‘herpes’ and ‘vibrio’ – devastated the molluscs and most likely came from juvenile oysters imported from France.

Helena Silva, the head of shellfish monitoring at Portugal’s Sea and Atmosphere Institute (IPMA), has advised producers to be more “cautious” when choosing their suppliers.

By MICHAEL BRUXO
michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com