A modern oysterman has as much work to do ashore as afloat. Oysters must be purified by ultra-violet treatment and meet stringent quality checks by the local Environmental Health Department. When this is combined with the unique qualities of our creeks for taste and growth, the Mersea Native becomes the connoisseurs' most sought-after oyster throughout the world.
Oysters are first washed to clean the outside shell, then they are sorted by weight on a grader.
The graded oysters then spend 48 hours in stacked trays while their water is circulated under ultra-violet radiation. The water, filtered and drawn from Buzz'n Creek, is changed weekly and the tray design any sediment to be separated. Customers comment on the cleanliness of West Mersea Oysters compared to other producers.
Approximately 75% of production is Colchester Natives some of which are obtained from natural spat in the River Blackwater and some taken as brood from the South Coast. The remainder are Gigas (rock) oysters, mainly bought in as brood from hatcheries and fattened in floating rafts and seabed trays in the creeks.
After purification the oysters are packed in round wooden tubs together with seaweed (harvested from the Strood and Packing Shed Island) to provide moisture. Natives are more delicate than Gigas and are transported in refrigerated vans. Each tub has a batch number which gives a record of the creek in which the oysters were grown.
The oyster sheds are built on the site of harry Banks' original purification tanks which were developed by Alan Bird and are now owned by Michael Dawson. They have been bought up to full European Market and local Environmental Health Standards.