Conservation charity ZSL (The Zoological Society of London) is looking for more entries for their Native Oyster Photo Competition, which aims to raise awareness of the plight of the species and help in their protection

Launched back in March, underwater photographers were invited to submit photos of the rare European native oyster (Ostrea edulis) to help scientists assess the current state of the native population. With a decline of over 95%, the species has been hit hard over the last 200 years by overfishing, habitat loss, pollution and diseases, meaning images of the creature in their natural habitat are extremely rare.

Now ZSL, who run the National Native Oyster Network jointly with the University of Portsmouth (UoP), is calling on the British and Irish public to help them gather more visuals of the iconic native species.

The initiative, which is supported by BSAC, has so far seen over 20 entries, with images of the oyster taken by divers in Falmouth, Chichester Harbour and Western Ireland.

No images of the native oyster in the wild have been previously held by the ZSL, meaning this is great news for the project. However, the Covid lockdown and subsequent diving restrictions over the summer has led to fewer images than hoped for by the organisers being submitted.

With the competition running until the 30 September, and diving starting to resume around the UK, Alison Debney, ZSL’s Senior Conservation Programme Manager, said there was still time for more photos to be submitted.

Whether you’re a diver, photographer, fisher or simply live near a coast – we need your help.

Oysters provide enormous benefits in the form of ecosystem services; nurseries for wildlife, clean water and in abundance, removal of carbon from our environment into their shell to name a few. The native oyster is a forgotten British treasure that needs the public’s support during this long road to recovery.

The project team hope that images and video generated through the competition will help to answer questions around the oysters’ recovery, including revealing if there are indeed any oyster reefs left and whether other endangered species like the spiny seahorse (Hippocampus histrix) or European eel (Anguilla anguilla) are associated with the habitat. The images will also be used by oyster conservationists to promote the importance of the humble mollusc.

How to get involved:

Applicants will need to send their photographs (with a maximum of three images and/or three videos per entrant) to NativeOyster@zsl.org with their full name, contact details and location the photograph was taken.

The competition results will be announced on 1 December, with the winner receiving a full year’s BSAC membership plus a one-day advanced photography workshop hosted at ZSL with professional photographer and National Geographic Explorer, Dave Stevenson.

A year’s BSAC membership will also be awarded to the runner up.

More information can be found at nativeoysternetwork.org/nativeoysterquest.





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