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© DEEP/ Richard Shucksmith

National Native Oyster Quest

The Native Oyster Network’s underwater photography competition called on the public to enter their best images or videos of our beloved native oyster and help spread the word!

The Native Oyster Network’s underwater photography competition called on divers, wildlife photographers, fishing enthusiasts, people living by the coast and oyster lovers to help gather images of the iconic native species.

Although we have lots of wonderful images of native oysters from the Network, they are often portrayed as a seafood dish or captured out of water. This makes it difficult to communicate the importance of restoring this species and the underwater habitat they create. We tasked photographers with the challenge of capturing images and videos of living native oysters on the seabed – wherever that may be around the UK coastline.

We had a fantastic response, despite the disruptions of COVID-19, and cannot thank our oyster community enough for their contributions! With over 40 fabulous entries, it has not been easy for our panel of judges to choose their favourites – but at long last, we have our winners…

© Jake-Davies

- Winner -

Dr Paul Naylor

(Marine Biologist, Underwater Photographer and Author of Great British Marine Animals)

A huge congratulations to our competition winner, Dr Paul Naylor, who came across this native oyster while diving under Brighton Pier. Here’s what he had to say about his amazing image: ‘The delicate gape of oysters is attractive, but their shells are usually rather cryptic, so the prominent position and colourful sponge covering on this one really caught my eye. I also liked its mussel neighbours, a union of hard-working filter feeders!’

All our judges were truly wowed by this image across all the marking criteria, showing excellent creativity, technical skill and adherence to the competition theme and overall aims. It goes without saying that this image will help us to fulfil our goal of communicating the importance of restoring this species and the underwater habitat they create. We strive to break down the common perception of these wonderful creatures as nothing more than a seafood dish and Paul’s image will certainly help us to achieve this! To see more of Paul’s fantastic underwater photography please take a look at his Instagram page @PaulNaylorMarinePhoto

- Runner up -

Sorrel Hugh-Jones

Sorrel snapped this wonderful image while her Dad was busy restoring the Helford Native Oyster Fishery, Cornwall. Our judges loved how even though at first the crab seems to take centre stage in this photograph, the Native Oyster shines as the true hero of the image, in the heart of its habitat, supporting a wide array of life and activity.  Our competition called on the public for this in particular– so that we could help to change current perceptions of our beloved Native Oyster and be able to champion it in its natural habitat and show the interactions and importance it has within our local waters.

Dr Gerald Legg

(Biologist/Zoologist and volunteer with Sussex SeaSearch)

Dr Gerald Legg submitted this incredible image that he took back in September 2006 using a Nikonos V film camera with Kodachrome 25 film as part of a survey in Brighton Marina looking for seahorses that had been reported being present and were indeed found. The Marina had been surveyed before and was the first in the UK to receive intensive work. The pontoons made of coated polystyrene blocks, were covered in a rich and diverse animal turf. During the survey Gerald found native oysters attached to the pontoons surrounded by squirts, sponges, hydroids etc. showing that you do not have to go to the tropics to have such colourful underwater life. To see more of Gerald’s wonderful images please visit his website.

Our judges were particularly impressed with the technical skill of this image and how well it fitted the competition brief, really helping us to champion the beauty of this amazing species in its complex and lively underwater natural habitat … Much better than seeing it on a dinner plate!

We would once again like to say a big thank you to every that participated in the competition, spread the word to friends, family and colleagues as well as to our incredible judges and prize givers. With your help we have certainly managed to fulfil our goals of the native oyster quest and look forward to being able to showcase all your wonderful images in the coming months, to help champion the importance of native oyster restoration.

© Stephane Pouvreau (2017). Underwater images of the last native oysters beds in Brittany (France). IFREMER.

The competition was judged by a professional panel of photographers and Oyster experts

The competition ran from 1 March until 30 September 2020.

Tom Mason

Professional wildlife photographer and Nikon Europe Optics Ambassador


Dr Philine zu Ermgassen

of the European Native Oyster Restoration Alliance (NORA). Oyster expert


Tom Gilks

Picture Editor at BBC Wildlife Magazine


The winner will win a one-day advanced photography workshop hosted at ZSL with professional photographer and National Geographic Explorer, Dave Stevenson and a BSAC (British Sub-Aqua Club) diving membership including access to UK-wide training, a monthly magazine, insurance cover and discounts on dive holidays, kindly donated by BSAC.

Runner-up prizes include a BSAC membership and a £100 voucher towards completing any PADI training also generously donated by the Oyster Diving Company, the UK’s premier PADI scuba diving and travel company.