The Fal estuary oyster fishery is unique. It is the only remaining oyster fishery in Europe which is fished entirely by sail boat or rowing punts. While this artisanal fishing method is likely to have contributed to the longevity of the fishery in the Fal, modern day catch per unit effort still suggests that there have been significant declines in oyster number relative to historical levels (Have-centuries-of-inefficient-fishing-sustained-a-wild-oyster-fishery-a-case-study-2150-3508-1000198.pdf). The oyster disease bonamia, was first recorded in the Fal in 1982. This has also taken its toll and now areas of “high densities” of oysters are identified as >1 oyster per m2 (Fal-Oyster-Survey-2019.pdf). This is something that local fisherman as keen to see improved in the future.
To this end, the Fal Fishery Cooperative CIC are seeking to further enhance the native oyster population in the River Fal by launching a native oyster hatchery. The hatchery will use local wild stock and therefore ensure that any genetic structure is maintained, and that there is no risk of introducing further diseases or invasive species, as would be the case if stock was translocated from elsewhere. While this proposed project is a fisheries based population enhancement project, it also has nature conservation aims. It is hoped that by increasing the local native stock in the river, that the wild population will also increase and provide a suite of biodiversity and ecosystem service benefits, and that by using local stock in the hatchery, potentially negative biodiversity impacts of importing stock can be prevented. As a Special Area of Conservation, one part of the Fal is currently closed to dredging activity for the protection of the eel grass; a designated feature. Currently, however, there are no plans to close any areas of the Fal to the oyster fishery for biodiversity protection.
The Fal Fishery Cooperative CIC is currently crowd funding to secure the lease and materials required to launch the planned hatchery. You can find more information about the #SavingESTER project at www.crowdfunder.co.uk