Native oysters are highly prized but across their range they are becoming more and more rare. The stocks of native oyster in Falmouth and the Helford estuary are healthy and in Falmouth the Truro River Oyster fishery (which produces Fal Oysters) is uniquely managed through a bylaw that has effectively frozen the fishery in time by banning the use of motors so that oyster are still collected using traditional sailing and rowing vessels. This makes Fal Oysters highly sustainable as well as a world famous delicacy.
This low impact artisanal fishery is a great example of a the preservation of shellfish stocks through a simple ruling that has also preserved a traditional way of life and created a niche fishery product that has high marketing value. Fal oysters can only be caught under sail and oar, the dredges used are light weight and can only be pulled by hand.
The fishery is managed by Cornwall IFCA. Landings of native oysters have decreased to a very low level in recent years as the traditional export market for native oysters for ongrowing in France has declined - sales were further harmed during the Covid lockdown and increased difficulties with exports since Brexit. There is also evidence that stocks on the oyster beds are at low levels. For this fishery to survive there is real need both to to improve marketing of the oysters to create a better UK market for them, and improving the management of this fishery further to ensure optimal sustainability.
Updated July 2022
Truro river and Fal Estuary
Sustainably harvested using lightweight dredges that are towed by traditional sail boats and rowing boats. The unique management of this fishery has resulted in a sustainable harvesting regime that has kept stocks healthy for 150 years.Learn more
Cornwall Good Seafood Guide rates fish on sustainability using a scale of 1 to 5.
1, 2 and 3 are recommended, Fish to avoid are rated 5.
We use the system devised by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) so our scores are comparable with the scores produced by MCS for the UK and fisheries from all around the world. For more information on scoring click here.
Native oysters from the Truro river (Fal) oyster fishery are caught using low impact and heavily restricted methods. Lightweight dredges (without teeth) are pulled over the oyster beds slowly as only sail and oar power are permitted, the dredges have to be light enough that they can be hauled up by hand. Average length of tow of an oyster dredge is 6 minutes, this reduces impact and results in very little damage to accidentally by caught invertebrates and shellfish. the contents of the dredges are sorted on the side decks of the boat and after the marketable oysters are removed the shells and unwanted by-catch is returned immediatey un-harmed, over the side back, onto the fishery. Un-marketable oysters which are too small to sell are often placed on lays – these are marked out sections of the intertidal within creeks on the fishery where oysters are allowed to grow before being harvested by hand by the fishermen at a later date. The oyster beds have been fished in this way for centuries and the impact on the seabed is minimal. Oystermen say that dredging actually helps the oysters to grow by reducing sedimentation and removing excessive seaweeds and predators such as spiny starfish. There is need for detailed research to investigate this claim frequently made by fishers.
Live oysters are mainly served raw. All you need is a knife, a bottle of good wine, and a little lemon or tobasco and away you go!
A healthy, delicious and colourful snack that is low on carbs but high on flavour. Utilising light and versatile rice paper, this paleo friendly recipe uses oysters in an exciting new way, particularly for those who don’t always want to eat them raw. This recipe is brought to you by Katy Davidson the ‘Oyster lady’ and owner of Amity seafood, Newquay.
An indulgent and filling New Orleans style roll on a sweet brioche with lashings of home made tartar sauce, rocket and three crisp and juicy tempura fried oysters. Contrasting flavours and textures make for a moreish comfort food option. This recipe by Katy Davidson the ‘Oyster lady’ and owner of Amity seafood, Newquay.
This simple dish is delicous and easy to prepair. And is best using fresh cornish squid!