- Native oysters are important ecosystem engineers, maintaining marine ecosystems by filtering water and providing habitat
- The UK’s native oyster season opens tomorrow till end April
- Stranraer Oyster Festival takes place this weekend, celebrating Loch Ryan wild, native oysters – arguably one of the most important native oyster beds in Europe
The UK’s native oyster season opens tomorrow (Thursday 1st September) just in time for Stranraer Oyster Festival, which takes place this weekend.
Native oysters, Ostrea edulis, are famously only available in months that contain the letter ‘R’ (1st September to 30th April) by UK law, which means oyster beds are left undisturbed during the important summer breeding months.
Native oysters are considered ecosystem engineers because they help maintain marine ecosystems by filtering water and providing habitat for coastal wildlife. With almost all of the UK’s native oyster beds overfished to near-extinction in previous centuries, the Loch Ryan oyster bed, near Stranraer in south west Scotland, is a rare ecosystem treasure. Oysters from Loch Ryan are now being used to help ‘re-seed’ native oyster restoration projects around the UK and mainland Europe.
Stranraer Oyster Festival, a community-led celebration of the local wild, native oysters, is now one of Scotland’s biggest food festivals. It’s set for a sensational return this weekend after a two year Covid-related break.
Taking place from 2nd – 4th September, the festival programme includes demonstrations and events by celebrity chefs Clodagh McKenna and Tony Singh, live music, extreme pond dipping, an artisan market, the Big Oyster Bash, children’s entertainment, a massive oyster bar and a spectacular firework display over Loch Ryan, home of Scotland’s last wild, native oyster fishery.
The Festival also hosts the Scottish Oyster Shucking Championship – also known as the ShuckOff – where chefs and seafood professionals will battle it out to win a place at the World Championships in Galway, Ireland, later this month.
Former professional footballer Allan Jenkins heads up the team organising the major event in his home town of Stranraer. He said:
“This is such an important event for the whole community. We’ve waited two long years to bring this festival back to its rightful home, and we can’t wait to welcome people to our beautiful town to celebrate some amazing local produce.”
Stranraer Oyster Festival is credited with changing the story of Stranraer, from one of economic deprivation to one of potential. The last Festival, in 2019, was independently assessed to have generated more than £1m in economic impact, and it has paved the way for other major events to take place in the town.
Stranraer was formerly the main ferry port for Northern Ireland. The economic impact of the move of the ferries to nearby Cairnryan in 2011 was deeply damaging to local businesses, and the community has worked hard to fight back.
Romano Petrucci, Chair of Stranraer Development Trust, says the importance of the festival to the town cannot be overstated.
“In a very short period of time Stranraer Oyster Festival has become a hugely important part of Stranraer’s identity, and a real focal point for celebrating the very best that Stranraer and the wider Galloway area has to offer. No one should ever doubt our community’s ability to create, produce and deliver the very best, and the very best is what we have sought to deliver this year.”
Stranraer Oyster Festival takes place from Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th September in Stranraer, south west Scotland. Tickets cost £5 per day or £10 for the full three-day event for over 16s, with concessions available. 16s and under can attend free of charge.
More information can be found at www.stranraeroysterfestival.com