Port expansion blamed for cadmium contamination in oysters

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Walvis Bay

Dredging work in the project to expand Walvis Bay port is being blamed for the cadmium contamination of Namibian oysters.

“The fact that Namibian aquaculture-grown oysters are picking up high levels of cadmium downstream from dredging activities in Walvis Bay has potentially serious implications for the Namibian fishing industry,” the chairperson of the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations (CNFA), Matti Amukwa, said on Wednesday. Amukwa told a media briefing that there was no scientific proof to this claim and “these remain the CNFA’s suspicions”.

The Hong Kong Centre for Food Safety suspended imports of live oysters from Namibia in December 2014 after laboratory tests detected high levels of cadmium in oyster samples. Cadmium is an extremely toxic metal.

In response, the port engineer at Namport, Elzevir Gelderbloem, who oversees the port expansion, said they have not done any significant dredge dumping at sea and currently use most of their dredged sand for land reclamation.

Gelderbloem said it is very easy for the CNFA to blame Namport, “but there is no proof to substantiate their accusations”. “We have obtained expert advice which in fact shows that the aquaculture farm at Patrysberg near Swakopmund is in an area where naturally occurring cadmium in the water is high due to natural upwelling currents in that area,” he said.

Meanwhile, Amukwa informed the media that the association and the fishing industry support the decision by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources to ban marine phosphate mining until studies prove it is safe to do so.

On September 17 2013, the fisheries ministry placed a three-year moratorium on marine phosphate mining. It said the fishing industry and Namibian citizens are concerned that marine phosphate mining, which is not done anywhere in the world, could destroy marine life.

Fears are that once such mining is started without proper research, it might totally destroy aquatic life and negatively affect the fishing industry which provides employment to many Namibians. – Nampa

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