Newlyn Fish Market - boats due to land.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Shellfish shambles explained.

Eighth generation oyster fisherman Tom Haward sheds some light on the 'EY shellfish ban' debacle that is affecting producers the length and breadth of the UK, not least for oyster fishing businesses like Fal Oyster and others in the Falmouth and Helford area of Cornwall.

Photo courtesy of Alan Clarke

The phrase, ‘EU shellfish ban,’ keeps being used by news outlets and it’s important to understand how this language is misleading and how Government is deliberately using misinformation to hide from its own failures. As a producer of live animals (oysters) who sells them on for human consumption, there are, quite rightly, rigorous standards we must meet to ensure what we sell is safe for people to eat. One of the most important factors in this process is the issue of water quality. If water quality is really poor (high amounts of sewage or rubbish dumped), animals like oysters will absorb the dangerous bacteria and make them unsafe to harvest.


There are 3 grades of water quality for shellfish production.

Grades, A, B & C. 

These grades were determined through when we were part of the EU. Simply, grade A waters are excellent and you don’t have to purify shellfish from these waters (some of our waters where we grow out oysters are A).

Grade B water means shellfish has to be purified before it can be sold for human consumption; most waters in the UK are B. The purpose of the grades is to ensure we use due diligence in our treatment of shellfish. It’s not a perfect system but it works...

As part of a large multi-country community we were effectively able to sell grade B shellfish unpurified to our neighbours where they would perform the process of purification before selling it on. Ideal if you harvested shellfish but didn’t have a purification centre. At least 2 years ago I noticed (along with others in industry) that if we were no longer part of the EU then as a 3rd country our food standards would no longer align, legally, and we wouldn’t be able to export grade B, unpurified shellfish...

This was raised with government figures as a major concern. It was obviously ignored. We (the UK) helped establish these EU regulations to have a consistent approach for easy, free flowing trade of shellfish. I said a no deal or equivalent would result in this catastrophe if it wasn’t looked at. George Eustace is lying when he says it was a surprise and when it is being peddled as an ‘overnight ban’. When he was fisheries minister he was aware of these worries. If I saw this coming then Johnson, et al should have...

The UK helped write the regulations government are now claiming they have been side swiped by. We are in this mess because those elected to serve us were too lazy and arrogant to read the small print because they wanted adulation without the work.