Bacteriological pollution of faecal origin has been found in the saltwater lake of Hossegor, France. Following an outbreak of food poisoning in the area after the consumption of oysters from the lake, water analyses were carried out, which revealed the presence of calicivirus (a virus which can affect both humans and animals). A prefectural byelaw ensued, banning any oyster farming activities at the lake. Although this byelaw was lifted last March due to the disappearance of the contamination, the health risk still remains because there could be a repeat of the incident at any time. This constitutes a serious public health hazard. If the water quality was to be blighted again, this would a disaster for public health, the environment, tourism, and the local economy.
Why Start up a new Battle?
Any impairment of the water quality constitutes a real risk for public health. Do we have the right to play down such a pollution and risk endangering our health? No!
Out of this feeling of indignation, a new Keepers of the Coast battle arose, with the aim to protect the saltwater lake of Hossegor and all the people who, whether professionally or in their free time, benefit from it.
Environmental impacts and effects on public health and tourism can easily be predicted, but economic problems have already occurred. Many oyster farmers had to suspend their operations for several months. Hence, on the 22nd of December 2012, J. Labeguerie, the representative of the Hossegor skilled workers, was mandated by the president of the regional committee for shellfish cultivation in Arcachon Aquitaine to file a legal complaint against person unknown at the police station in Seignosse (Landes Department), “for the discharge of substances which are harmful to fish or their food, and for pollution”. Surfrider Foundation Europe supported this move by filing a second complaint against person unknown.
First Stages of the Battle
Hypotheses are inevitably made to try and work out the exact source or sources of pollution. The heavy rainfall at the end of November 2012 combined with the gastroenteritis epidemic which hit the Landes Department at the same time makes thefaulty, obsolete and/or inadequate sewage treatment plants in the surrounding area the main suspects. Additionally, in an attempt to validate these first hypotheses, samples taken upstream and downstream from these sewage treatment plants revealed the presence of both norovirus and sapovirus. Following the institutional protocol of IFREMER, bacteriological analyses at the lake are reiterated every fortnight. It was on the demand of the French Ministry of Agriculture that the national laboratory of reference carried out analyses which revealed the presence of calicivirus in a sample taken from the incriminated shellfish.
Thus, there is scientific evidence for the existence of pollution in the saltwater lake of Hossegor. Surfrider Foundation Europe is prepared to ensure the mediatisation of this pollution, which represents a high risk to public health, but also to get the stone rolling by entering into dialogue with territorial collectivities, the association of municipalities, and the municipal syndicate.
If you want to get involved in this battle, join our Keeper Martine and the volunteers of the Sud Landes Chapter, who will give new meaning to your actions!
Léa Arrizabalaga, Environment Editor
The first Keepers of the Coast Report has been online since the 12th of July 2012. It looks back at 20 years of initiatives led by the Keepers, and you can find it on the web page dedicated to the Keepers of the Coast. You can also have a look at their Facebook page: ‘Surfrider – Keepers of the Coast’.