Oyster growers in France have a new weapon in their battle with thieves who steal tonnes of their produce every Christmas season: electronic beacons disguised as oysters that alert gendarmes if they are moved from the seabed.
Flex-Sense, a start-up company at La Rochelle, has taken €1 million worth of orders since it launched its “mystery oyster” last month. The white plastic-covered transmitter is designed to attract the same seaweed and incrustations as the oysters around it.
“The oyster takes on camouflage very quickly and becomes invisible,” said Sylvain Dardenne, one of the company’s co-founders. The batteries in the device last 60 days. Oyster farmers on the French Atlantic coast and police have been going to great lengths to combat theft, which has increased as oyster prices have risen sharply in recent years.
Nearly 1,500 growers in the southwest Atlantic area lost produce to thieves in the run-up to the festive season last year. Ten tonnes of oysters were stolen in a raid on the Marennes-Oléron waters in September.