French shellfish farmer Christophe Guinot has a message for those looking to steal his oysters – and he puts it right inside the shell.
"It has had a dissuasive effect. I think that over the past five to six years, there has been no new oyster thefts and no complaints filed.”
While not as valuable as pearls, oysters are a high-end commodity when it comes to shellfish. A half-dozen can fetch up to 24 euros, or $27, at fancy restaurants – especially around the holidays, when demand is high.
Which is why thieves have been known to hop on a boat and to steal them from the submerged metal cages in which they are raised.
Guinot’s note – which he came up with in 2016 after thieves stole three tons of his oysters – is rolled up and put inside an empty shell… which is then glued back together and placed in a cage.
The note tells whoever opens it that they have won their weight in oysters, and invites them to call a phone number to claim their prize.
That person could then be asked where they bought the oyster, and if it was not from somewhere that Guinot supplies, the sleuthing shellfish farmer could then set the police on the oyster thief’s trail.
"Thanks to the mandatory tracking of our shellfish, I will be able to find that rude person, whether he or she is a sea professional or not, who will have sold my oysters to a wholesaler, who will have then sold them to a fishmonger. And with the help of the nautical brigade and the maritime police, we will be able to catch - at least they will, since it is their job - the person who steals from oyster farms."
Other shellfish farmers in southern France have mimicked Guinot’s methods to great effect: after 19 heists in 2017, there were none in 2020.