Fal Oysters are an international hit Published: 18 January, 2007
CORNISH fishermen have been promoting their native Fal Oysters on an international stage thanks to help from the South West Rural Enterprise Gateway (SWREG) and Cornwall County Council.
Members of the Truro Oyster Fishery Management Group are hoping to see increased exports to European countries of their sustainably caught and high quality product, after a recent visit to the major bi-annual Slow Food conference, Terra Madre in Italy, which draws over 6,500 participants from all over the world. The Slow Food organisation was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and protect the diversity of food, tradition and culture.
In 2003, the oyster fishermen formed a group with local buyers and the fishery regulator, Carrick District Council. The group manages the future of the fishery and has recently accessed support and funds from the SWREG project to help them market the product to wider audiences. Evonne Amblin, Business Link project officer for SWREG Fisheries said: “The work this group is doing is so important for the future of the Fal Oyster Fishery; at one point there were around 80 boats fishing on the Fal Estuary, then in the 1980s disease caused stocks to plummet. The fishery is slowly recovering and currently there are about a dozen fishermen as supplies gradually increase.”
Ms Amblin continued: “The South West fishing industry is estimated to be worth £244 million to the local economy and directly accounts for around 1,300 offshore jobs and 2,000 onshore jobs, so it is a sector we cant afford to neglect.”
Fal Oysters are wild, native oysters found on the sea and river bed of the Fal Estuary and are famed for their distinctive sweet, fresh and delicate flavour. The oysters are fished in traditional sailing boats as no mechanical power is permitted on the fishery. The Management Group is also currently applying for Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status, a scheme established by the EU to help protect the names of traditional foods in order to define their authenticity and preserve their place of origin and traditional methods of production.
Objective One Fisheries programme manager, Clare Leverton said: “Fal oysters really are an exceptional product, distinctive to the region and of a very high quality. The fishing techniques couldn’t be more sustainable – which is the buzz word in the food industry at the moment. I have helped the Management Group with Objective One Fisheries grants in the last two years and was really pleased to see them get the award from SW REG and Cornwall County Council for this trip and the promotional work.”
Ms Leverton continued, “The visit to Turin has increased the amount of international contacts the group has, which will hopefully pay dividends in increasing the opportunities to export in the next few years. Securing PDO status would also be an enormous boost for the product, placing Fal Oysters alongside internationally well known brands such as Cornish Clotted Cream and Parma Ham.”
Ben Wright, owner of the Duchy of Cornwall Oyster Farm, Helford said: We already know that the product were supplying is excellent, but the oysters are a high value, low volume product and so we need to focus on a niche market. SWREG is helping us develop a specific focus for the sales and marketing to develop the reputation of Fal Oysters at home and abroad.
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