Good Fish Guide
Your guide to sustainable seafood
You can play a key role in securing the future of our seas and marine wildlife by making more environmentally responsible choices when buying seafood.
Make the right choice and reduce your impact - every purchase matters!
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Oyster, Native, oysters (Farmed)
A great choice for special occasions, or a regular treat! Often eaten raw, but can be lightly cooked. They taste like a mouthful of seawater, in fact the French poet Leon-Paul Fargue said eating one was 'like kissing the sea on the lips'.
Oysters are rich in zinc and said to have aphrodisiac properties. They should be tightly closed when bought and have a fresh smell when opened. The native flat oyster was once considered food for the masses because it was so common. It is now depleted throughout European waters including much of Britain. The native oyster and, particularly, the introduced Pacific oyster are grown commercially in UK seas, and are available widely. Oysters are traditionally consumed fresh and eaten on the half shell. They are shipped to local markets or distributed to supermarkets and restaurants. There are large differences among oysters, as with wines, with regard to taste, body and nose. Oysters feed by filtering water through their system -a single Rock oyster can filter up to 10 litres of water per hour. The flavour of oysters is a function of the minerals, salinity, and the type of algae they eat in the water. Like wine, oysters gain much of their flavour from their terroir (environment).Tastes can range from some salty to floral, some have fruity notes, mineral flavour or even hints of spice. Even oysters from the same estuary can vary in flavour depending upon exactly where they are grown.
Throughout European waters including much of Britain the native oyster is depleted in the wild. Areas once noted for their large natural beds are now being used for oyster farming or cultivation including non-native species, such as the Pacific oyster, which are currently more widely cultivated than the native oyster. Oyster beds are generally privately owned and managed. Shellfish farming is an extensive, low-impact method of mariculture and high quality water standards are required for cultivation of shellfish for human consumption. Dredging can cause disruption to the seabed and has a higher associated bycatch than manual harvesting techniques, but are less suited to deeper water for practical reasons. Some growers may hand-gather their stock by diving or by net to enhance quality. Wild stocks are depleted and although management of the fisheries is good, the native oyster is still vulnerable to exploitation.