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Scottish native oyster season opens with harvesting for Stranraer Oyster Festival

One of the country’s favourite shellfish, native oysters have long been a staple part of Scotland’s national diet.

Published: September 11, 2018
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To celebrate this exciting delicacy, Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight’s young ambassador Rory Campbell has helped open the native oyster harvesting season by collecting oysters for Stranraer Oyster Festival, which is set to take place this weekend (14-16th September).

A Seafood chef from Portpatrick, Rory joined the crew of oyster boat the Vital Spark to land one of the first oyster harvests of the season.

Joined by Oyster Festival Co-ordinator Allana Hardie and Events and Young People’s Champion for Dumfries and Galloway Council, Adam Wilson, the young chef learned all about how the crew of the Vital Spark will now be working daily to land the thousands of native oysters needed for the oyster festival, which takes place just a short distance from the oyster bed in Loch Ryan.

One of 13 young ambassadors for Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, the annual celebration of Scotland’s produce, Rory also runs Instagram page SeaSalt Harvest, a social media page that celebrates Scottish seafood.

He said: “I really enjoyed going out to the oyster bed and to help sort through the catch. Loch Ryan oysters are exceptional and having a major oyster festival just a stone’s throw away from the oyster bed itself is fantastic for Stranraer and really helps to put Galloway on the map as a seafood destination.”

Councillor Wilson added: “It was invigorating to be out on the Vital Spark and to play a role in bringing in a catch of oysters for the festival. I’m much more aware now of the provenance of Scottish native oysters and proud that they come from Dumfries and Galloway.

“Festivals and events are a great means of developing this kind of awareness and creating a greater commitment to our environment, health and wellbeing.”

Oyster co-ordinator Allana Hardie said: “We were delighted to nominate Rory as a food and drink Young Ambassador and pleased that he could help us with the start of the oyster harvesting. The Stranraer Oyster Festival is about the future of our wee town, recognising that our natural larder, our beautiful landscape and the warmth of our welcome creates a huge opportunity for us to position Stranraer as a food tourism destination.

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Picture: Stranraer Oyster Festival

“Local chefs like Rory are an essential part of that future vision and we are pleased to work with him and others to celebrate our local seafood.”

Fiona Richmond, head of regional food at Scotland Food & Drink said: “This is a great event taking place during Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight and it’s fantastic to see one of our young ambassadors, Rory, showcasing his passion for seafood and really embracing our #ScotFoodGoals campaign.

"In order to reach our ambitious industry targets, we need to work together to promote our industry and what better way to do this than through events such as these, which showcase the wealth of quality produce and the talented producers from across the region.”

The native oyster was once widespread around Scotland and much of the UK but has been harvested to near extinction.

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To avoid the breeding season native oysters in the UK are traditionally harvested only during months with an ‘R’ in the name. Loch Ryan next to Stranraer is Scotland’s last remaining native oyster fishery.

To support the growth of the oyster bed the fishery return 95 per cent of each catch to the water, gradually dispersing the oysters across the loch to encourage breeding and support the growth of the oyster bed.

Stranraer Oyster Festival takes place from 14-16th September during which around 5,000 oysters are expected to be eaten. Festival highlights will include the Scottish Oyster Shucking Championship, chef demonstrations including some by Nick Nairn, seafood street-food, an oyster bar, a festival makers market, extreme pond dipping and a wealth of entertainment and activities for young people.

• Full details for the festival can be found at:

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Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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