NICOSIA – The European Commission has prohibited the import of fish from Famagusta on the Turkish-occupied side of Cyprus after finding that untreated human waste was being dumped into the sea there.
That was detected by an investigation of European Union analysts, said The Cyprus Mail, which led to 30 fishing vessels docked in the port banned from selling fish in the bloc.
A Green Line Regulation – referring to the division between the Greek-Cypriot side and the occupied territory that takes up the northern third of the island – was put into force in 2004 when Cyprus joined the EU, apart from the Turkish-Cypriot side.
The regulation set out rules under which people, goods and services can cross the Green Line and some foods, including fish, are allowed to be traded across the Green Line to the Greek-Cypriot community.
EU inspectors carry out regular checks to make sure the products meet standards for safety and other criteria and found that in this case the fish were in areas where untreated wastewater was poured into the sea, polluting the wates.
“The EU experts first detected two months ago that untreated wastewater was being released into the sea in the Famagusta fishing port, where the fishing vessels are docked,” Kemal Atakan, head of the fishermen’s association told the paper.
“After three consecutive inspections and when all the warnings fell on deaf ears, the commission decided to exclude fish from that area from the Green Line trade,” he said, after apparently allowing fish caught in human waste to be sold.
“We give them 10 days to fix the problem,” said Atakan. “If they don’t, we, as fishermen, will take matters into our own hands. We will block the discharge pipe with cement.”
He said that a wastewater treatment plant in the area was first out of order due to a malfunction but that after the local authority said it was fixed the EU inspectors found out that was a lie and the water discharged in the sea was still untreated.
“This time because there was no electricity at the treatment plant,” he said.
The Turkish-Cypriot community has had frequent power outages because of a lack of investments in the electricity infrastructure, fuel shortages and the inability to buy some very expensive spare parts for failed turbines, the paper said.
Atakan insisted though that the waters where fishing takes place are clean, contradicting the EU inspectors report.
“The untreated wastewater is being released into the fishing port, where the fishing vessels are docked,” explains Atakan. “There is no pollution in the open waters, where fishing is done.”
But İzzet Adiloğlu from the Turkish-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, which issues the necessary documentation needed for products to be able to cross the Green Line, told the paper there was still a risk.
“Of course, the fish are from open waters,” said Adiloğlu. “But there is always the danger that polluted water will infiltrate into the deck of the vessel, come in contact with the fish and pose a risk… EU experts make the necessary inspections for trading fish across the Green Line. These experts determine which vessels are in line with hygiene and other standards. We give the documentation in accordance with these inspections. And we are no longer providing documentation for the vessels using the Famagusta fishing port.”