Suffolk oyster beds hit by herpes virus

A Suffolk oyster farmer is predicting shortages next year due to problems caused by a disease in France.

A herpes virus has destroyed millions of oysters in France leading to increased demand for "seed" oysters from French producers.

Billy Pinney, of Pinney's of Orford, said: "We're getting the repercussions of it because the French are taking all the seed from over here.

"We're having a devil of a job getting enough stock to re-seed our beds."

Pinney's has beds at Butley Creek which it farms for its oyster restaurant in Orford and for retail.

They do not produce the seed oysters themselves, so rely on supplies from hatcheries elsewhere.

Containment zone

Butley normally puts down a couple of tonnes of the seed oysters, but they have not been able to put any down yet this year.

Mr Pinney said: "Because of the disease, you can't import them from France, so you're left with one British hatchery and they can't meet demand.

"We're looking at a situation where this time next year we may be out of oysters."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has introduced a containment zone off the coast at Whitstable, Kent which is the only place in Britain where the virus has been found.

Dr Kevin Denham, head of the government's Fish Health Inspectorate, said: "Controls were put in place to protect the industry.

"There are no restrictions on the purchase of seed from any of the UK hatcheries.

"Sources of seed from outside the UK are permitted providing they are appropriately health certified by the competent authority in the exporting country."

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