The first Lymington Seafood Festival looked set to be a victim of our very English summer. Grey skies and downpours in the week ahead had the Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) team stocking up on wellies and raincoats. But as the day dawned it became clear that the organisers and attendees were in luck, the sun shone brilliantly and crowds flocked to Bath Road for what promised to be a unique and brilliant event. BLUE was on site at the festival as official charity partner, raising awareness and funds for the Solent Oyster Restoration Project. Lymington, with its rich maritime history and strong connection to the Solent oyster fishery, was the ideal venue to talk about the importance of native oysters.
The Solent Oyster Restoration Project is restoring the native oyster back to the waters of the Solent with the goal of improving water quality, providing habitat and increasing ecosystem health. Native oysters are also a huge part of the heritage of the Solent, which was once the largest oyster fishery in Europe, helping to support as many as 700 fishermen as recently as 1970. BLUE has already managed to restore 10,000 native oysters within the first year of the project and intends to seed a further one million this year.
A number of BLUE team members were in attendance to raise funds and talk more about the value of the project to the local area. They were joined on the stand by a project partner (The Dorset, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Natural England team) who exhibited a tank of jellyfish, sea squirts and oysters. Throughout the day tickets were being sold for a raffle to support the Solent Oyster Restoration Project, with prizes including a spa day and cooking school for two. Forest Cake Crafts also kindly donated delicious biscuits to anyone buying a full book of raffle tickets! Hampshire Art for Recreation and Therapy (hArt) were also fundraising with a raffle and kindly offered to give half of the money they raised to the Solent Project.
Another project partner, the Southern IFCA, joined BLUE at the stand on Sunday to talk about their work and involvement in the project. As the sun beat down, people came in their droves to take in the festival’s atmosphere. BLUE’s UK Projects officer, Morven Robertson, joined Alex Aitken and Katy Davidson – aka ‘The Oyster Lady’ – onstage at the demo kitchen. They talked oyster restoration, their love of the humble bivalve and cooked up a storm in front of a packed crowd. Katy fell in love with oysters at the age of 12 and has unofficially campaigned for oyster culture for the last decade.
As the festival drew to a close it was clear to all who attended that the event had been a huge success. Support from visitors of the festival meant that BLUE managed to raise a fantastic £3,000 for the Solent Oyster Restoration Project. Perhaps even more importantly, thousands more people learned more about the chance to restore the native oyster in the Solent. From all the team at BLUE, we would like to say a huge thank you to the organisers of the Lymington Seafood Festival, not only for helping us raise valuable funds for the Solent, but also for generating great publicity for the project. See you next year!