Irish shellfish producers have called for action on what they say is ‘a shocking report’ from the EPA on raw sewage discharges to sea.
IFA’s shellfish farming sector chairman, Michael Mulloy, said the report, which shows a dramatic increase in breaches of sewage treatment regulations around the coast, “must be acted upon immediately” if Ireland is to retain its reputation for safe quality seafood.
“There has to be clear recognition that our coastline is an extremely important area for quality food production. Irish shellfish products have an enviable reputation in global export markets.”
The quality and service provided by the shellfish sector is also recognised in the home market which has shown rapid expansion in recent years but mainly in valuable export markets.
He added that the shellfish industry provided opportunities for over 2,000 people around the coast to enable them to live and work in areas that have few alternative employment prospects.
“Over 2,000 families from Malin Head to Carlingford depend on shellfish farming for their livelihoods. A huge amount of investment has been made in supporting regulatory and physical infrastructures to ensure that consumers have full confidence in our products.”
He said the lack of investment in waste water treatment plants totally undermined years of good work by the shellfish industry and was a major disappointment and concern for IFA members. Mullowy added that his members had forged new alliances selling seafood to Asia where standards are very black and white in terms of any contaminants.
“One look at the map will generate enquiries. The industry needs answers as to when this situation is going to be tackled,” he said.
Mulloy is demanding government support of the shellfish industry at European level by seeking specific water quality standards within the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
“The Commission has been trying to avoid being prescriptive about limits on key indicators of pollution in the Directive. There is an opportunity now for Ireland to lead the way by insisting on limits to ensure that public and private water companies are forced to continuously improve and monitor their systems of discharge to sea,” he said.
“Our livelihood, our customers’ health and the future for many remote coastal areas depends on clean water. This is a national priority now.”