Wales: E Coli is killing off Conwy's mussels industry

Source of Article:  http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/2009/04/28/e-coli-is-killing-off-conwy-s-mussels-industry-55578-23487328/

 

 

THE mussel fishing industry will die out on Conwy estuary unless urgent steps are taken to clean the waters and tackle the E-coli bug, experts have warned.

The presence of the bug in mussel beds on the estuary has seen some beds downgraded by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and slashed the harvesting season.

This has already had a massive impact on the industry with the amount collected annually from the beds down from around 300 tonnes to between 100 and 120 tonnes.

A warning has been issued that unless the source of the pollution is traced and dealt with, the entire future of mussel farming on this stretch is under threat.

Trevor Jones, who owns the Conwy Mussel Company, said: "The water quality is forcing the closure of beds and it is a threat to our futures if this is not solved.

"The amount we collect is down and the number of people employed in the industry is down.

"It was not so long ago we had 40 people on these beds, now it is eight or nine.

"Our season has been shortened and it is becoming more and more un-economical."

Mussels farmed on the Conwy estuary are mainly sold to the UK market and have an excellent reputation for quality.

When the fishery beds are open for the full fishing season the 300 tonnes of mussels are worth about £270,000 to the local economy.

But the downgrading of a number of commercial beds by the FSA from a B to a C grade makes those beds un-economical as intensive mussel cleaning is required before they are fit for sale.

Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences had hoped to undertake an extensive study into the problem but were not awarded vital grant money.

Bill Cook, senior scientist with the North Western and North Wales Sea Fisheries Committee (SFC), said: "There is a real threat to people’s livelihoods on the Conwy estuary. At present it is not economically viable because when beds are graded C it is not economical to harvest them.

"The problem is the lack of information on what is causing the pollution. Until we know that nothing can be done to solve the issue.

"We have written to ministers in London and Cardiff to put pressure on them to get something done."

All waters are ranked on how many sampled shellfish may be contaminated with E-Coli with sampling carried out every month.

The Environment Agency said it had been working with Conwy Council, the SFC and Bangor University in an attempt to find out the cause of the increased bacteria levels in the mussels.

They said their work with Dr Cymru/Welsh Water and local farmers has meant the water quality in the estuary has never been better.

A spokesman added: "We are concentrating our efforts with the lead organisations to find a way forward to secure a better future for the important mussel industry in the Conwy Estuary."

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