THE sight of red sailed oyster boats in the Fal Estuary could become a thing of the past after the UK was told a ban on exporting shellfish to the EU is going to permanent.

The shellfish industry across the country has been told by the EU that because the UK is now not in the union, all shellfish will have to go through a purification process it did not have to adhere to before Brexit.

Defra had been telling UK shellfish businesses that the EU ban would only last until April 21, when the EU is set to implement new animal health regulations, and did not affect farmed shellfish.

A leaked email to the website Politics Home showed that The European Commission last month wrote to the UK shellfish industry informing it that un-purified oysters, mussels, clams, cockles and scallops caught in those waters were banned from the EU indefinitely since the UK left the Brexit transition period on New Year's Eve.

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The European Commission said it believes that DEFRA misunderstood EU law when it advised the shellfish industry that the ban, which has been in place since January 1, would expire on April 21.

Martin Laity, left, has opened up Food Barn at Tregew

Martin Laity, left, has opened up Food Barn at Tregew

Martin Laity director of Sailor's Creek Shellfish in Flushing says the news sounds the death knell for his business and the 52 fishermen and women he had to lay off over at the beginning of the year because of Brexit.

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Mr Laity told the Packet: "A fishery that has lasted two millennia has just ended. As far as I see it's the UK government and the EU in the biggest Mexican stand off, they have got environmental blood on their hands. It will be to the detriment to the environment.

"Our fishery is one of the smallest in the country but one of the most important environmentally. We are instrumental to the environment. It's the reason we have eel grass, it's the reason we have seahorses because of the way we fish."

He says he currently sells 30 to 40 kilos a week at the Food Barn at Tregew and that takes one oyster fisherman two hours a week to catch to supply the local markets. When the UK market opens he says it may change to two men fishing for two days a week "And that's it," he said. "One young fisherman Fraser Johns from Flushing he's emigrated to Portugal to manage an olive farm. He was the youngest oyster man we had on the books, the most promising. He was intelligent enough to see what was happening. That's our young blood gone."

He said delays at the border were never going to change and with exports currently down by 68% into the EU when things got faster, traffic and delays will increase and purifying them here would mean individual consignments to each customer with all the import charges made it financially unviable.

"That's it, that's the end there's no way we are going to get it out."

A spokesman for Defra said: "Shellfish such as oysters, mussels, clams, cockles and scallops (live bivalve molluscs) are generally harvested from waters that are either classified as Class A or Class B.

"Class A waters means that it has been harvested from waters that are of good quality and they can be exported to the EU without being cleaned/purified, while Class B waters means that the shellfish aren’t ready for human consumption before being purified. Exporters have previously exported class B shellfish to the EU where they were purified.

"Now that the UK is classed as a third country, the EU Commission have voiced concerns about the trade in un-cleaned live bivalve molluscs, harvested from Class B waters. The Government is in touch with the Commission to raise the issue and find an appropriate solution.

"Shellfish harvested from Class A waters, or that have been cleaned and are ready for human consumption, can continue to be exported to the EU.

"Live bivalve molluscs such as oysters, mussels, clams, cockles and scallops can continue to be exported to the EU if they’re harvested from Class A waters or cleaned, or have cleared end product testing in the UK."

Cherilyn Mackrory MP has since said she shares the disappointment of the oyster men and shell fish fisherman in Truro and Falmouth who face losing their livelihoods because of a ban on importing live bi-valves from the UK into the EU.

She said the Government was working round the clock to try and reverse the decision by the EU and make sure the voices of the fishermen are heard.