The history of oyster farming in France goes back to the 16th century. Although production has fluctuated throughout history for various reasons, France is today among the most important producers of oysters, thanks to effective promotion and cultivation practices.

We can roughly divide oyster farming in France into three parts throughout history.

The first of these is the phase between the 16th and 19th centuries. During this phase, oysters were harvested from the wild and taken to primitive aquaculture facilities. This was a period that was more uncontrolled and open to external factors than today.

The 19th and the mid-20th centuries are defined as the middle stage, and during this period, different countries - such as Japan - became involved in oyster farming. At the same time, there were some problems in aquaculture operations in France due to diseases affecting oysters. Although France's ability to grow oysters was hampered for a time by major diseases affecting oysters, fisheries researchers specializing in oysters have become better at treating oyster diseases.

The period from the 20th century to today is defined as the modern phase and oyster studies in France are at their peak during this time. Generally, family businesses continue this business today.

Currently, oyster farming is carried out in two regions in France: the Atlantic coast and the Mediterranean coast. The productivity on the Atlantic coast is higher than on the Mediterranean coast because the temperature of the Mediterranean is higher than that of the Atlantic. The growth rate of oysters, like all types of fisheries, depends on factors such as water temperature, food availability, and health. Oysters grow faster in waters with more suitable temperatures and in areas with abundant nutrients.

So, you may wonder why a species native to the Pacific was brought from Japan to France. The answer is simple: the Japanese Pacific oyster is more resistant to diseases and more productive than the native European flat oyster. The French government also provided financial support to the oyster industry to bring this sector to a better place, and thanks to this support, the quality of oyster farming practices, in France improved, and production increased.

Marketing oysters in France

In France, oysters are sold fresh on the market and are often eaten raw from the shell. Currently, annual production meets France's domestic market demand, and there is very little trade with other countries. Oysters are considered a traditional, affordable luxury product. Christmas and New Year's times are when oysters are consumed the most. Oysters still have a very good image among seafood. In addition, consumers are becoming more concerned about the source of the product. Therefore, the promotion of oysters is done in two ways: by norms such as size, condition, and filling index, and by identifying the products with certificates and labels.

Let's talk about some basic information about oysters in France. The top oyster-producing regions in France are Marennes-Oléron, the Bay of Arcachon region, and the Brittany region and the most popular oyster species in France is the Pacific oyster (that name is Crassostrea gigas).

France produces approximately 130K tons of oysters per year. The French oyster industry employs approximately 10K people, and the value of the French oyster industry is estimated at around 100M million euros per year.

Classification and marketing of oysters

In France, oysters are sold similarly to mussels, that is, by the kilo or by the piece. 

Oysters are classified between 0 and 5 according to their unopened weight, with 0 being the largest and five being the smallest. French consumers most frequently consume Number 3, which weighs between 66 and  85 grams

The classification of boiled oysters is based on the percentage of soft tissue. If this value is less than 6.5, oysters are not classified. When the index is between 6.5 and 10.5, they are called good.

They are classified as special when the index is above 10.5. The classes fines de claires and speciales de claires refer to oysters that have been refined exclusively in saltwater ponds.