Cornish Native 'Fal Oyster' (Ostrea Edulis)


 Alf Smythers - Fal Oyster - Hole & Corner

In 1602 Sir Richard Carew saw fishermen catching oysters with 'a thick strong net fastened to three spills of iron, and drawn to the boat's stern, gathering whatsoever it meeteth lying in the bottom of the water, out of which... they cull the oyster'.

The last wild native oyster beds lie in this beautiful Cornish estuary. In 1876, in an early example of conservation legislation, Truro Corporation passed byelaws forbidding the mechanised harvesting of oysters. The Fal oystermen use gaff-rigged cutters, some over a century old, the last in Europe to fish commercially under sail. Upstream they dredge with punts; not what see boys in blazers and girls in muslin poling along the Cam in, but hefty rowing boats.


Common myths about Fal Oysters:

1: they are not small, BUT the 'minimum landing size' MLS is the smallest* in U.K. - 67mm at its longest length - since 1926 "it shall not pass through a circular ring of 67mm diameter" AND having been consulted by fishermen CIFCA snuck in the words "when laid flat across the aperture" during an emergency bylaw amendment in 2013 so some fishermen could fill the buckets with smaller oysters *Other fisheries 70mm at shortest length i.e. "do not pass through a circular ring"
When laid flat across the aperture
2: the fishery is neither "inefficient" nor "sustainable" with its current fleet of 10 or so licensed vessels. These 'traditional fishing vessels' are not the 'racing boats' known as the Falmouth Working Boats and aren't really encouraged to race. It was hoped a mutual share of the oldest vessel Shadow 1868-70 would be appealing but the association did not want her to go fishing anymore. Built 150 years ago when there were hundreds of boats and hundreds of tonnes landed by sailing fleets. FOL only bought the vessel to secure the lay and the future recruitment of responsible oystermen
Shadow built 1868-70
3: the Falmouth Oyster Festival is not a community gathering of all licensed oystermen and hardly showcases our best produce as its within a week of the fishery opening. How can three men land 20,000 oysters and purify them in a week ready for the big four day event? Well, the only suppliers land tonnes of the juvenile oysters all winter and deposit them on the lays up a creek. In September they collect all the ones that have grown to an edible size and sell them for more than anyone can earn from fishing in a season
Falmouth Oyster Festival - juvenile oysters
4: the Fal Oyster has gained a Protected Designation of Origin status meaning approved businesses must "produce, process & package in a given location using traditional know how”, 'Fal Oyster Ltd. t/a Cornish Native Oysters' is the ONLY company approved and marketing the provenance. We would like the PDO to protect the stocks by ensuring the MLS is raised to 75mm or 80g, this would mean each oyster on the Fal Oyster Fishery may produce 4-5 more oysters than the current 1-2yr old oysters reproduction of just 1! 
67mm oyster 35g

5: Generally our shellfish waters are pretty clean, however water companies are licensed by the Environment Agency to discharge raw sewage and Port Health struggle to report test results within 7 days. The good news is ALL approved purification centres must reduce very high levels to very low levels before oysters can be consumed. So why do they close the river for human consumption but not for harvesting?


Getty images - Cornish Native Fal Oyster

New premises at same address 


Fal Oyster Ltd. t/a Cornish Native Oysters since 2009

Cornish Native Oysters, Mylor, TR11 5UF

When we we set up our processing business in 2009 we named it Cornish Native Oysters so we were not treading on the toes of other well established merchants, they didn't want our better oysters for better money. Now we are the only company verified by Trading Standards to use the Fal Oyster PDO we are more impersonated than we would dare... Shows we could have been right all along... We need to up the standards ie Minimum Landing Size ...


Click logo above for PDO document

UK Protected Food Names

Cornish Native Oysters or '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.

Cornwall Council Protected Food Names

CEFAS Public Register

Important Species

Important to the Fal Oyster Fishery


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 methods couldn't be more sustainable”

Perhaps the most sustainable fishery in the world is the Fal River oyster fishery (officially known as the Fal Fishery), the last oyster fishery in Europe harvested under sail by Europe’s last commercial sailing fleet. Here on the River Fal 'Fal Oysters' (oystera edulis) have been harvested in more or less the same, highly sustainable, fashion, without the use of mechanical power, for more than 500 years.


01 Pêcher autrement Different fish VOST from Le Groupe Ouest on Vimeo.

This is a natural and wild fishery where the oysters are not cultured or bred. There is a small amount of husbandry of the wild and natural beds as during the process of fishing the substrate (cultch) is moved by the dredge which keeps the fishery in good heart, and also occasional extra dredging of the beds without harvesting (described as harrowing) further improves the oyster beds and encourages a good spatfall (young oysters to settle). 

The oyster season starts on the 1st October and closes on the 31st March, the working hours are 0900hrs to 1500hrs Monday to Friday and 0900hrs to 1300hrs on Saturday. The oysters are wild and propagate naturally, consequently the stock size fluctuates form season to season and in order to prevent over-fishing a minimum size of 67mm is imposed and the Carrick Council oyster bailiff is responsible for policing it. All dredgermen must be licensed.
Extract from HVMCA newsletter No.30 Spring 2005