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Tellin pirates, the new squatters of the Latium coastline

They harvest up to five thousand quintals of molluscs, marketing them without any checks being made

04, Aug 2023

If the blue crab weren't enough to score this summer, now the cockle pirates are arriving on the Lazio coast. An army of squatters who sell shellfish at bargain prices, shuttling every day between Fregene and Torre Astura. According to the calculations made by professional fishermen and reported by La Repubblica, the illegals collect up to five thousand quintals of shellfish, marketing them without any checks being made. A danger for consumers and enormous damage to the blue economy, the one made up of over one hundred boats that are engaged in the collection of cockles, clams and razor clams on the Roman coast every day.

As specified by Giovanni Conte, president of the Consorzio molluschi Roma e provincia, they would come to earn around 150,000 euros a day on the black market. Professionals have calculated that, armed with rakes, there are now 6-7 illegal immigrants every 300 meters of beach and each of them manages to collect between 30 and 40 kilos of cockles.

“Through the consortium, we manage the times and quantities of the catch, according to the regulations in force - explains Conte-. We communicate the exits of boats and fishermen to the Ministry and the Port Authority, with whom we work in synergy. Unfortunately we have realized that, after Covid, there are no longer the necessary checks. This has allowed those who were sporadic fishermen who perhaps initially fished a bucket of cockles to become a group of people equipped in an increasingly professional manner, even with rakes identical to those we use: they 'work' every morning for two or three hours, collecting several kilos of shellfish each and then selling them on the beach. The total is about five thousand quintals per day”.

Among the squatters, in addition to the locals, there seem to be well-organized teams: many arrive from Naples by car, generally they join up in groups of three people who manage to recover considerable quantities of shellfish in a few hours. Many then, it seems to be the illegal immigrants of foreign origin, Moroccans and Tunisians in particular.

The differences between abusive and professionals are not insignificant. Every fortnight the professionals undergo a series of checks, transport the molluscs to the collection centres: those caught in not too clean waters are purified and guarantee the traceability of the product, which is always stored, even at a suitable temperature. The fishermen in black, on the other hand, do none of this and the danger of feeling ill after a feast of clams bought at half price, but without guarantees and therefore contaminated, is very high.

At the fish market in Anzio, the professionals are paid 3 Euros per kilo for the cockles, while the squatters have no costs and even by selling the product for 5 Euros per kilo, they manage to earn considerable sums. With the paradox that if someone feels bad eating those products, everyone is banned from collecting cockles. "There are 6 or 7 people for every 300 meters of beach -continues Conte-. There are over 70 kilometers of coastline. Each of them manages to make at least 30 or 40 kilos of it, for an average of 45,000 kilos of cockles a day". are impressive: 31,500 kilos of cockles, which yield, resold at 5 Euros per kilo - around 150,000 Euros a day.And the math is quickly done: in one season one million Euros can easily be reached, all undeclared, therefore for tax evasion tax.

Irregulars sell cockles on the beaches, on the street and in the local markets. But they have also organized themselves on social networks, where shellfish are offered at more than competitive prices, with a flurry of posts on Facebook. "So we are no longer able to sell - underlines Conte who complains about the absence of controls making it in fact impossible for professionals to even invite the squatters to stop -. When we tried -adds the president of the Rome and province shellfish consortium- they raised their voices and were ready to raise their hands as well."

Rome, RM, Italy, 03/08/2023 12:37
EFA News - European Food Agency

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