Oyster farmers face setback after seabeds closed over E coli rise

The entrance to Langstone Harbour from Eastney
The entrance to Langstone Harbour from Eastney
Picture: Malcolm Wells

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OYSTER farmers have hit out at a ban on collecting shellfish from the waters around Portsmouth.

It comes as the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority ordered a temporary closure of oyster fishery off Langstone and Portsmouth Harbours.

The closure starts on Saturday and will remain in place until the end of the 2014/15 season.

It was sparked by high levels of E.coli contamination in the shellfish beds.

Eric McLeod from Viviers Fish and Shellfish merchants, in Old Portsmouth, who owns oyster-farming boats and sells seafood, said it will have a detrimental impact on his business.

He said: ‘The fishermen are being prevented from earning a livelihood.’

Fishermen have complained there is not enough place for them all to go and farm on.

A notice of the closures was issued by Southern IFCA in mid-October.

A report into the shellfish industry in Portsmouth said it is worth £500,000 to the local area with around 50 boats registered locally.

Southern IFCA put a notice on its website telling people of the closure.

On Friday, Portsmouth City Council agreed a new scheme to help better inform people if there are any future closures.

A spokeswoman said the new system would help tell fishermen sooner.

The city council is responsible for sampling the beds.

Testing is done each month and the levels need to be reduced for two tests.

Public Health England says most strains of E. coli are harmless.

But some variants can cause food poisoning or other problems such as urinary tract infections.

As reported, raw sewage was pumped into Langstone Harbour sparking anger from the Eastney Cruising Association.

Southern Water, which has been discharging unscreened sewage from Fort Cumberland pumping station for several years, has been fined for the pollution.