‘It’s devastated business’: Oystermen worry about post-Brexit trade

A post-Brexit ban on exports of untreated oysters to the European Union has left some Essex fishermen concerned about their future. 

Mersea oysters are world renowned. Picked from oyster beds in the intertidal waters of the river Blackwater Estuary, they have been harvested for hundreds of years. 

There is a global market for the wild catch with orders this week reaching as far as Taiwan. Richard Haward’s Oysters used to send 250kg of the shellfish to the European Union every week, now they do not even send one.

Oysters taken from waters classified as B need to be treated Credit: ITV Anglia

Water quality is classed as A, B or C - only oysters caught in class A water can be sent into the European Union without being treated. Water quality fluctuates with the weather, currently water in the estuary is classified as B. 

If the United Kingdom was part of the European Union the oysters could be sent without being purified. As it is no longer a member, all oysters farmed in class B or class C waters need to be purified. Coupled with the extra paperwork some oystermen say it is now harder to export to the EU.

The owner of Richard Haward's Oysters on Mersea Island says it is a situation he predicted would happen and he believes the government should have seen it coming too.

The government has announced more financial support for the seafood industry and has told ITV Anglia it "continues to seek urgent resolution to export issues".