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Helford River Oysters

Oysterage on the Helford River has a long history.

News 1963 5 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for South West Film and Television Archive


Oysters are bivalve molluscs prized for their delicate fleshy interior. The Pacific, Japanese or rock oyster Crassostrea gigas has largely taken over from the British native oyster, Ostrea edulis because it is easier to farm, grows faster and may be harvested all year round. Port Navas developed as a port for the local granite industry but today is home to Duchy Oysters and the oyster fishery on the Fal and Helford is undergoing a twenty-first century revival.

Oyster fishing on the Helford River dates to the twelfth century. The oyster fishery was privatised and run by the Vyvyan family before being bought in 1915 by the Duchy of Cornwall. Len Hodge in this film and his son Lindsay are the fourth and fifth generations to run the oysterage at Port Navas. In 2005 the Wright Brothers took on the Duchy Oyster Farm and have managed to reverse a decline in the fishery. Once harvested from oyster beds, the molluscs are kept alive in oyster pits and undergo depuration to clean and purge contaminants before being sold for consumption. Oyster shucking to open the live oyster is performed manually with a special knife and quite a culinary skill.