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Oyster farmer calls for ban on metal-detecting in bay

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THE Island’s largest producer of oysters and mussels has called on the government to ban metal detecting in Grouville Bay and at Le Hocq.

Chris Le Masurier, owner of the Jersey Oyster Company, claims that shockwaves from the controlled explosion of munitions found by amateur detectorists are causing his stocks to die.

The oyster farmer’s calls come after images surfaced online showing people handling a ‘viable’ 10cm-diameter Czechoslovakian-made shell.

Mr Le Masurier said: ‘Basically, it is a bit of a free-for-all that has escalated in the last couple of years and has resulted in untrained hobby-metal detectorists finding unexploded ordnance which is then blown up.

‘In recent years, when the explosions have been taking place, we have been taking some bags of oysters up the beach and leaving them on the shore and also leaving some at sea. Those left in the sea suffered an increased level of mortality.

‘The bomb disposal officer says that he has to do this in the interest of public safety but why do they just not dig these up in the first place? It defies belief. I cannot see why it is allowed to happen.

‘One of these days, there will be an accident. It is unbelievable that we have private hobbyists doing this. I was going to keep this out of the paper but this is getting ridiculous now and I will be writing a letter to the Chief Minister about it.’

When asked whether he is calling for a ban on metal-detecting in Grouville Bay and Le Hocq, he replied: ‘Yes.’

In October last year, a number of pieces of a 214-year-old shipwreck – thought to be from HMS Severn – were recovered from the bay.

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Other artefacts including shrapnel balls, a gun carriage from the same wreck and an Occupation-era periscope have also been found in the area.

However, Mr Le Masurier said he thought the number of munitions found far outweighed other non-lethal finds.

Ken Rive, president of the Jersey Metal Detecting Society, said he was surprised to hear Mr Le Masurier’s remarks and added that his club had agreed not to search within 25-metres of his oyster beds.

‘We thought the agreement would be enough to keep him happy. We do not go actively looking for ordnance – we look for shipwrecks and other Occupation-related memorabilia and those are just a by-product of that,’ he said.

‘They are not just underground – they are also on the surface. Most people just walk past them and do not realise what they are.

‘We do not tend to find anything deeper than 30cm under the surface, so does he really want his tractors and trailers running over the top of that?’

Ed Taylor

By Ed Taylor
Journalist

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