A SHELLFISH exporter hopes to send his first delivery to the EU since Brexit this week, but it is 30% of what he would normally send in one delivery and comes just as the season finishes.

Martin Laity of Sailor's Creek Shellfish based in Flushing has been unable to export any shellfish to the EU since the UK left on December 31 last year. Since then rules enforced on 'third countries' as the UK has now become, mean that shellfish caught in class B waters cannot be exported into EU unless they have gone through a process of what's known as 'depuration'.

He has had to lay off over 50 oyster fishermen and women since the new rules came into force.

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Mr Laity is hoping to get Queen's Scallops coming from the waters of the Fal classified for export to Europe by the Port Health Authority and CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) laboratory in Weymouth this Friday. None of this had to be done before Brexit.

Mr Laity, who has a small purifying plant at his base in Tregew Barn, Flushing, said once that's done can make his first delivery to France

"In order to sell shellfish to Europe they must now be purified," said Mr Laity. "We can only purify from Shellfish that's been classified for a certain area from a certain water and our Queens Scallops will be classified on Friday. Cornwall Port Health do the testing and makes the decision on the classification.

"Each species must be classified. At the moment oysters are classified B, mussels are classified B from the same area and Queen's Scallops being classified and will be certified class B on Friday. Then we can start to export.

"The thing is it's got a big extra cost in the purification process and it also weakens the animal and French customers would prefer not to receive them already purified because they like to do it there, and you are not allowed to re-submerse them.

"We'll be probably be only 30% of our usual production so down 70% of what we usually send. I'm getting very disappointed now, whatever DEFRA tell us it is just chit-chat it's no physical difference happening."

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DEFRA boss, and MP for Camborne and Redruth, George Eustice has promised a 'deep dive' into the mollusc export issue to try and sort it out. Mr Eustice wrote to EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Ms Stella Kyriakides, last month, expressing surprise that the Commission has "changed its position” on the question of importing live, bivalve molluscs for depuration from waters classified as ‘Class B’ into the EU.

In his view he said this was inconsistent with earlier statements provides by Commission Services. He argued that the trade should be allowed to continue, suggesting the EU had sprung a ban on Britain’s shell fishermen.

“We can see no scientific or technical justification for this change and the news was conveyed to us rather casually and after the event," he said in the letter. "This is not in the collaborative and cooperative spirit in which we wish to work together going forward.”

However in her reply Ms Kyriakides pointed out the EU was only applying the same rules that had been in force when Britain was a member and that Mr Eustice had been aware of that before the Brexit deal was signed.

Many small shellfish businesses don’t have the money needed to build a depuration plant. The £100k cost for a small plant wouldn’t provide the depuration capacity some companies need and probably don't have the land to build on which needs to be near to where they harvest their shellfish.

Shellfish are at risk of dying after depuration and long delays at port. Paperwork and delays have now pushed prices up so they are no longer competitive with EU oyster neighbours Ireland, France, Denmark. Only 1% of production areas in the UK are Class A waters. In Ireland it is 36% and in Europe the whole mass it's 38%. Mr Laity says this is down to the different way the British authorities interpret the EU directive in a 'very harsh manner'. He says the industry has been lobbying the British government for 30 years to classify in a different way.

With the season now finishing, the British government has until November when it starts again to sort it all out, says Mr Laity.