Our Local Hero: Cornish Shellfish Company

Our Local Hero: Cornish Shellfish Company

Have you ever sat down in your local restaurant and enjoyed the freshest tasting, most delicious shellfish of your life, and wondered where on earth it came from?

And, more importantly, how you can get your hands on some?

Well, there is a good chance it came from a small boat bobbing off the coast of Helford in Cornwall. Landed by a small team of fisherman and delivered, fresh as could be, the very next morning. 

The Cornish Shellfish Company is one of the leading suppliers of quality shellfish to customers across the UK. Recommended by the trusted Cornwall Good Seafood Guide, Cornish Shellfish Company sell their catch to Michelin-starred restaurants (such as Le Manoir au Quat Saisons), chefs, elite caterers, hotels and wholesalers.

And, you could be their next customer! 

The company was founded in 2006 and is run by owners Huw Thomas and Laura Davis and their Sales Director Steve Viggers.

Huw and Steve’s friendship stretches back fifty years to selling prawns in Vietnam: between them, their experience working with seafood is unrivalled.

Huw’s wealth of experience in sustainable fishing (he’s the man behind Morrison’s excellent fish counters), mean that it’s a subject close to his heart and its become a pivotal part of how he runs his business today.

Cornwish Shellfish Company’s ethos is simple and it feeds into everything that they do: quality, provenance and sustainability.

Firstly, quality – Cornish Shellfish Company provide only the finest, most sought after products and high quality is absolutely guaranteed.

Their flagship product is the highly prized, but increasingly hard to come by, Fal Oyster. This oyster has been granted the Protected Designation of Origin, so they must be produced, processed, and packaged right where it is landed.

Although the Fal oyster is native to UK waters, it is now only found in two small areas off the coast of Cornwall, and the company work with ten fisherman who hold the specialized licence to dive for them.

An 1876 bylaw froze the Fal industry in time and preserved a traditional way of life by prohibiting the use of mechanised winching and boats with engines. All oysters must be hand dredged, which is a difficult job requiring a lot of skill.

The oyster is distinct to the non-native Pacific or rock oyster, being flatter with a sweeter taste. They are much more unique, and represent a real delicacy said to been enjoyed by the Romans! 

Secondly, provenance – through working closely with small teams of local fisherman, the Cornish Shellfish Company know where its catch has come from and can guarantee it’s been caught in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. They even have their own secret fishing spot!

With its policy of landing and selling only seasonal produce, the Cornish Shellfish Company’s menu changes throughout the year and, for Huw and Steve, this is exactly how people should be shopping!

With the challenge of Brexit posing new challenges to the UK’s fishing industry, it is more important than ever to shop locally. 

Finally, Cornish Shellfish Company want to help the local community and protect their seas.

Sustainability is key and it is crucial that shellfish stocks are maintained and preserved for future generations.

Cornish Shellfish Company have strict protocols, for example returning any Fal oyster weighing less than 60g to the ocean to grow and spawn for another season. Fal oysters can only be fished between October and March to protect the stock when spawning.

Cornish Shellfish Company also supports the National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow by taking part in the buy-one-set-one-free lobster scheme, which helps maintain a healthy lobster population and reseed the beds.

But, despite the best efforts of Cornish Shellfish Company, as well as other responsible companies, to create a prosperous and sustainable market, the future viability of the Cornish fishing industry is entering choppy waters.

The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations said the UK fishing industry is facing a ‘brick wall of bureaucracy’ in its trade with the EU, and fishermen feel let down. 

British fishermen face the prospect of being unable to sell their catch to one of their biggest markets, the EU. Of the products Cornwall exports, 55% is sent to the EU market – a higher figure than the UK average. Extra paperwork, certificates and veterinary checks mean that live exports (such as the Fal oyster and mussels), as well as other products with “just-in-time” supply chains, won’t be able to get to markets on the continent quick enough.

With neighbours still able to fish in UK waters for the next few years, British fishing fleets are feeling short-changed.

Hopefully, live exports can begin again in April (when the live produce export legislation is set to change) but they are still likely to be subject to some degree of additional paperwork and delays and this could put the Cornish seafood market in great jeopardy.

The UK’s seafood is well known to be outstanding. It is fresh, varied, healthy and delicious and in demand across the world. Scottish lobsters, Fal estuary oysters and Morecombe Bay potted shrimp are just a few of the locally available incredible seafood options, available to us all.

But many people would be amazed to learn that with all the seafood and fish in our waters, the UK is actually a net importer of fish.

In 2019, the UK imported 721,000 tonnes of fish and exported just over half that.

If we want our fishing industry to flourish, we need to change this. Broadcasters and chefs, such as Paul Peacock, are arguing for the British people to buy more British seafood to support our fisherman. Something Local & Independent are firmly behind, with our unShellfish campaign.

While the usual consumers for the Cornish Shellfish Company are diners in high-end restaurants, they now deliver a wide range of seasonal seafood via Local & Independent. Choose from the renowned Fal oyster, lobster, crab, pacific oysters, mussels, King scallops to more unusual produce, such as spider crabs and razor clams.

If you fancy high quality seafood in the comfort of your own home, these can be delivered to straight to your door, often whilst still alive – it could hardly be fresher!


See what’s in store: Cornish Shellfish Company