We are an oyster farm, first and foremost, that is who we are, what we do and what we love.
Our wild oyster beds are in the River Colne and our managed oyster beds are in the Pyefleet Creek which hugs Mersea Island from where the Fishery sits in East Mersea to the Strood, the crossing onto Mersea Island from the mainland.
How we grow oysters
Our oysters are a mix of wild oysters, grown from the brood stock we leave in the river and oyster seed that we lay on the oyster beds. The oyster beds are made up of hundreds of years of shell and stone that is laid down on top of the muddy river bed each year to catch the wild oyster spat and hold the oyster seed.
We have an oyster nursery where we grow on the smallest oyster seed in floating rafts to protect them from crabs, starfish and all the other things that live in the river that like to eat the oysters. Once they are big enough and still maybe only the size of a two pound coin, they are taken to the oyster beds.
It is quite a thing when we lay the oysters onto the beds, they are scattered from the boat by hand over the beds, sinking through the water and setting on the prepared ground. We then let the oysters grow, checking them often to make sure they are growing well until they are big enough to eat.
How we harvest oysters
We have two options when it comes to harvesting our oysters. We can go at low tide by dory to the oyster beds and pick them by hand, selecting only the ones that are the size we want. The other option is to go by boat at high tide and carefully pull a dredge over the oyster beds and sort out the oysters on the boat putting back any that are too small or too big and taking the rest back to the Fishery to be graded and depurated.
How we depurate oysters
We had a major fire in 2019 and we lost our oyster depuration room and water purification plant; after a few years in our temporary oyster container village, we moved into our new oyster room - the silver lining to the fire. We have invested in state of the art oyster equipment to ensure that our oysters are clean, correctly graded, safely depurated and delicious each and every time. The oysters are graded by weight then placed into the tanks where purified seawater filters through the oysters for a minimum of 42 hours. The oysters are packed to order from the tanks where they are checked again to make sure only the best oysters make the grade.
We aren't just an oyster farm
In the early 1970's after Christopher Kerrison had taken over the lease to the river a disease came in with the tide and the oysters in the river died. With a new fishery in East Mersea and a team of local people to keep employed Christopher did two things. First he restocked the river so that there would be oysters growing on the beds again, but they would take three to five years to reach a size that they could be sold. The second thing he did was to diversify, he remodelled the new fishery so that it could store lobsters and began importing lobsters from Canada in the winter months and buying native lobsters from fishermen all along the East Coast in the summer months.
Christopher was amongst the first people to import lobsters on this scale and we began selling them to restaurants in London, to the wholesale markets across the country and even exporting them to Europe. It was a brave move, but one that kept the fishery doors open and people in jobs whilst the oysters grew in the river. We continue to be one of the main lobster wholesalers in the country, importing from Canada and buying from the East Coast just as Christopher did over 50 years ago.