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Call to join hunt for oysters - an elusive national treasure - University of Portsmouth

A five-year-old native oyster with a juvenile oyster growing on it (c) ZSL
A five-year-old native oyster with a juvenile oyster growing on it (c) ZSL

Amateur and professional photographers are being asked to capture one of Britain’s national treasures most of us will only have seen on a dinner plate – the native oyster.

It is hoped underwater images of the oyster (Ostrea edulis) might restore Britain’s ‘cultural memory’ for a species perilously close to being lost forever.

Native oysters have suffered a 95 per cent decline in population over the past 200 years due to a devastating cocktail of overfishing, habitat loss, pollution and the introduction of diseases.

Oyster expert Dr Joanne Preston, a marine biologist at the University of Portsmouth, and conservationists at ZSL (Zoological Society of London), which is running the photography competition, launched the Native Oyster Network in 2017 to help restore the native oyster in Europe.

Dr Preston said: “Oysters are the engineers of the sea, providing the right conditions for a wide range of marine life to thrive, but we are losing them at an alarming rate. We have lost our cultural memory of the native oyster reef habitat in Europe. This competition is a fantastic opportunity to find, document and celebrate the remnant oyster reefs in our temperate coastal waters.”

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