Yesterday, 28th August, 2012, for a bit of exercise and moments of quietness, I took a walk beside the River Crouch at South Fambridge. This is my favourite place for walking. There I saw something that I had not seen before, two motor fishing boats dredging, possibly for oysters. Technically, the season for dredging oysters begins on 1st September and continues for months containing the letter ‘r’, although Native (local) oysters can legally be sold between 4th August and 14th May.
There has been some concern* that the oyster population is close to collapse through over-dredging, and a ban has been agreed between the Essex Wildlife Trust and the Blackwater Oysterman’s Association, ratified by law. The Kent and Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority has placed a prohibition on the taking of Native oysters (ostrea edulis) from an area defined in their website. (See note below.) As far as I interpret the banned area, it includes the Rivers Roach, Crouch, Blackwater and Colne.
I personally do not have a penchant for oysters, but I am startled by the fact that an Essex oysterman has claimed** to have sold 20,000 Rock oysters a week and 200,000 Native oysters a year.
Here’s an extract from the Kent and Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority website:
SHELLFISH BEDS BYELAW
PROHIBITION ON TAKING NATIVE OYSTERS
Notice of Closure
The Kent and Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority has implemented a prohibition on the taking, removal or disturbance of any Native Oyster (ostrea edulis) from within the following defined area under its Shellfish Beds Byelaw.
The closed area is defined as the area enclosed by a line drawn from a position on the coast at Clacton 51.47.223N 01.09.325E, connecting through points at: 51.43.853N 01.09.178E, 51.41.969N 01.08.367E, 51.40.021N 01.05.053E to Foulness Point at position 51.37.206N 00.57.475E and thence following the line of mean high water along the Essex coastline and returning to a position on the coast at Clacton 51.47.223N 01.09.325E.
This prohibition comes into effect from 28 May 2012 and will be reviewed by 27 May 2013.
*Essex estuary oyster population 'close to collapse'
**The world (or a little bit of Essex) is our oyster as Britain heads for a bumper season (2009)
Kent and Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority
Fisheries Action Group
West Mersea Oyster Dredging Match
Oysters of the River Crouch and River Blackwater