Student to research oyster decline

AN Essex University student is set to carry out a six-year study to investigate the decline of one of the county's most historic delicacies, the Colchester Native.

AN Essex University student is set to carry out a six-year study to investigate the decline of one of the county's most historic delicacies, the Colchester Native.

A campaign to preserve and boost the fortunes of the native Colchester oyster, traditionally found in the Colne estuary, has been running for several years.

Now part-time PhD student Malcolm Hardy will examine the decline of the natural species, in contrast to the increase in the fortunes of the estuary's most prevalent oyster, the Pacific, which was introduced to the area in the 1970s.

Professor Graham Underwood, Essex University's head of marine science, said the circumstances surrounding the decline of the Colchester oyster needed to be explored.


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He said: “There's a whole set of question marks about why this species won't come back. The first part is to map where the oysters are as we really don't know.

“In Colchester we still have the annual Oyster Feast and it would be nice to restore stocks for historic and traditional reasons as well as biological reasons.”

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He explained that an increase in the oysters could have a knock-on effect on boosting other species, such as molluscs and fish.

The EADT has backed Mersea oyster growers in their calls for special European Union status that would allow only oysters grown locally to carry the name Colchester Natives, which are renowned internationally for their texture and taste.

Mersea Island businessman Richard Haward, who runs The Company Shed fishmongers and oyster bar, which sells fresh oysters harvested locally, welcomed the new study.

He said: “The native oyster has been here since the Romans. It is just in certain areas where the native is coming back, slowly. The basic stock that has survived the disease has got so small.”

elliot.furniss@eadt.co.uk

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