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Thursday, 14 August 2014

Falmouth shellfish harvesters are being forced out of business due to E.coli

SHELLFISH harvesters are being forced out of business after two contamination crises in three months brought the industry to its knees. In recent tests, the level of E. coli found in oysters at one site in the Fal estuary was 400 times the legal limit, and 35 times the limit at another. The scare comes just six weeks before the oyster harvesting season and the Falmouth Oyster Festival, which some fear could be put at risk. It is also barely three months after the Food Standards Agency closed mussel beds in the Fal River, also because of the levels of E. coli.

Mussel farming banned on Fal River due to sewage pollution Meeting over mussel ban after "confusion" from farmers The effect of the two scares has forced one company to give up on the traditional trade after three decades. Kevin Laity, from Kernow Shellfish, who harvests mussels in the summer and oysters in the winter, has put all three of his boats up for sale. His son-in-law Mark Cairns, who works with him, said: “It is a huge concern because a lot of people are going to go out of work.

Knock-on

“It’s a knock-on effect. If the mussel beds were not shut down we would still have plenty of time. Nobody knows what to do.” Chris Ranger, a merchant from Cornish Native Oysters which processes mussels and oysters, has 8,000 oysters in ‘lays’ in Mylor Creek – one of the contamination sites. He said: “I haven’t done any business since April because of the (mussel) ban. And now, after these oyster results, it’s wearing a bit thin. I don’t know if I’m going to be trading by the weekend. If I hang on any longer I could lose everything. At least if I get out now I could save my boat.” He has a purifier which he says would allow him to clean the oysters once he could remove them from the creek but at the moment the ban prevents them from being moved.

The scare has also put Falmouth Oyster Festival at risk, said Dave Trewin, owner and chef at Samphire restaurant in the town. “The festival is at risk,” he said. “The whole idea of the festival is to celebrate the native oyster. If the next test comes back the same it has got to be a worry for everybody involved.”

Lee Fuller, director at The Shack restaurant said: “That is going to have a massive effect on the festival; I imagine they will be shipping them in from France.” He added that the mussel ban had pushed up the price and he expected the same to happen to oysters. “We just can’t buy the local mussel any more,” he said. “We just see the price going up and up. I imagine that will happen to the oyster.” Results of the next oyster tests are expected next week and the mussel bed ban could be lifted next month if the all-clear is given.

But Mr Cairns said: “The damage has been done. Even if it is deemed fit a lot of people will be apprehensive about eating them. Everybody loses faith in what is a beautiful oyster.” Mike Rangecroft , from Falmouth Oyster Festival, said to pre-empt any decisions about the event at this stage would be “unwise”.

Full story courtesy of the West Briton