© DEEP/ Richard Shucksmith

National Native Oyster Quest

Are you a diver, wildlife photographer or fisher – or simply just someone who lives near the coast?

Then join in on the Native Oyster Network’s new underwater native oyster photography competition or help us spread the word.

Today (1 March 2020) the Native Oyster Network – a collaboration between international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London) and University of Portsmouth is calling on the British and Irish public to help us gather images of the iconic native species.

Although we have lots of wonderful images of native oysters from the Network, they’re 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’re tasking photographers the challenge of capturing images and videos of living native oysters on the seabed – wherever that may be around the UK coastline.

© Jake-Davies

Applicants will need to send their photographs (with a maximum of three images and/or three videos per entrant) to [email protected] with their full name, contact details and location the photograph was taken.
Full T&Cs must be agreed upon before entering the competition, read below.


If you want to share any of your images online in celebration of the native oyster,
please use these social handles and hashtags:
@NativeOysterNet @ZSLMarine @UoPMarineBiol #NativeOysterQuest

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

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

The competition will run from today (1 March) until 30 September and winners announced around December 1 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.

How to tell the difference between a native oyster and a pacific oyster?

Native oysters are characterised by a rounded, flaky shell with a brownish green colouration. Whereas pacific oysters have an elongated shell with sharp curved edges, typified by a purply pink colouration. Pacific oysters are normally established in the intertidal zone in coastal areas and muddy estuaries so can be spotted whilst walking along the shoreline at low tide. However native oysters are located in the lower intertidal and predominantly sub-tidal zone, so you’d be more likely to find them whilst on a dive.

Ostrea edulis

Native oysters

Native oysters have formed an important part of our cultural heritage and native oyster fisheries have sustained livelihoods for UK coastal communities for hundreds of years. Further to this, Native oyster reefs provide a nursery area for a diversity of fish species, including commercially important species such as sea bass. Known as ‘ecosystem engineers’ because they create the conditions for other species to thrive – stabilising shorelines, filtering water and providing vital food and habitat for coastal wildlife. One adult oyster, for example, can filter more than 140 litres of water in a single day. They’re also able to bury carbon into the seabed as well as remove nitrogen from the water, recycling it into their shell. Collectively the oyster beds in the Solent have the potential to remove 200,000kg of Nitrogen each year, which is roughly the weight of 33 African Elephants.

Crassostrea gigas

Pacific oysters

In 1965, the Pacific oyster was introduced to the UK to replenish the low stocks of the UK native oyster. It is native to the Pacific Coast of Asia. It was previously thought that our UK seas were too cold for Pacific oysters to successfully reproduce, however they have now become established in the wild in many places along the UK coastline such as Cornwall and Devon.

National Native Oyster Quest T&C's

Before you enter, please make sure you have read the competition terms and conditions:

Prizes and benefits

  • There will be one winner and one runner-up chosen by a panel of three judges. The winners will be announced on Tuesday 1st December 2020. The competition will open on Sunday 1st March and close on 30th  September 2020.
  • The winning prize will be a one-day advanced photography workshop hosted at ZSL and a BSAC diving membership.
  • The runner-up prize will be a BSAC diving membership and a £100 voucher towards completing any PADI training course donated by the Oyster Diving Company.
  • Prizes provided by third-party organisations may be subject to alternative T&C’s, including but not limited to:
  • The one-day advanced photography workshop provided by ZSL has the following terms and conditions:
  • The £100 voucher provided by Oyster Diving, https://www.oysterdiving.com/, has the following terms and conditions:
    • Has to be used in conjunction with any PADI diving course with Oyster Diving
    • The voucher is valid for 12 months from 1st December 2020
    • The minimum age is 10
    • All participants must satisfactorily complete the PADI risk liability, medical statement and safe diving practices. A note from a qualified medical practitioner may be required if there are any potential health issues.
  • You can find more details about the BSAC diving membership provided by the British Sub-Aqua Club here: https://www.bsac.com/membership/.
  • By entering the prize draw each entrant agrees to be bound by these terms and conditions.
  • Prizes are non-transferable and a cash alternative is not available. ZSL reserves the right to terminate, amend or extend this promotion without incurring liability, in the event circumstances affect its ability to operate the competition. We will not be responsible unless required by law, for any loss, changes, costs or expenses, which may arise in connection with this competition and we can cancel or alter the competition at any stage.

About the competition

  • The native oyster (Ostrea edulis) photography competition encourages people to capture underwater images and video footage of the rare native oyster in the UK & Ireland.
  • The competition is owned by the Zoological Society of London [ZSL], a charity dedicated to the protection of animals and their habitats.
  • The competition seeks to understand more about the native oyster population in the UK & Ireland and identify suitable images to communicate our work.
  • The competition will open on Sunday 1st March 2020 and closes on 30th September 2020.


  • It is the responsibility of each entrant to ensure they have read and obeyed the competition rules set out below.
  • By submitting an entry, each entrant agrees to the competition rules and digital guidelines, and that that their entry complies with ZSL’s requirements.
  • Any entry found not to comply with the competition rules will be disqualified.
  • The decision of ZSL on all matters relating to the competition is final and binding. No negotiation will be considered and prizes are non-transferrable.

How to enter

  • The competition is only open to adults aged 18 years or over.
  • Entrants enter by emailing [email protected] with their full name and contact details and the location the photograph was taken. Entrants can also apply on social media by tagging in @NativeOysterNetwork and #NativeOysterQuest and sending their images over with details.
  • The competition is not open to ZSL employees, volunteers and their relatives.
  • Only three images and three videos will be accepted per person. If you enter multiple times, ZSL will only accept the first three images and first three videos you submit.
  • Entries must be emailed to ZSL by 23:59 on 30th September 2020.

What to enter

  • Each entry image or video must contain an image of a wild and alive native oyster (Ostrea edulis) in a natural environment – i.e. underwater or in the inter-tidal zone.
  • Entries must not contain any profane or abusive language, offensive gestures or hate speech.

What NOT to enter

  • Photos that depict animals in an undignified or degrading manner.
  • Photos that show dangerous or illegal behaviour or behaviour that could damage the object being photographed.
  • Photos that show a lack of respect towards the object being photographed.

Ethical Standards

Any breach of the below ethical standards will constitute a breach of the Rules.

  • Entrants must not compromise the welfare of any animals, and should never do anything to injure or distress any animals or destroy their habitat in an attempt to secure a picture.
  • Entrants must not trespass or engage in any illegal, reckless or dangerous activity.

Judging the competition

  • The winners will be chosen by a panel of external, professional wildlife photographers and oyster experts. The winners will be contacted via email on 1st December 2020, if after two attempts we still haven’t had a response from a winner, a new winner will be picked.
  • All entrants’ images may be featured in an element of the Native Oyster Network and Essex Native Oyster Restoration Initiative marketing campaign (This may include, but not be limited to social media posts, provided to external press and used on the ZSL and Native Oyster Network website).


Copyright and reproduction

  • Each entry must be the original work of the entrant and must not infringe the rights of any other party.
  • The copyright in all photos submitted to the competition will remain with the copyright holder who will be credited in accordance with the competition’s guidelines (eg © photographer’s name).
  • By entering the competition, each entrant grants to ZSL a non-exclusive irrevocable licence to reproduce, publish and communicate to the public by any means and exhibit their photo(s) and copies of their photos(s) in all media throughout the world in relation to the competition and ZSL including but not limited to all use in the context of:
    • Judging the competition
    • Inclusion in ZSL’s Native Oyster Network and Essex Native Oyster Restoration Initiative marketing campaign
    • Inclusion within ZSL’s websites, including within interactive elements associated with the competition (now known or hereafter created) available for viewing or download from ZSL’s websites
    • Inclusion in promotional, press and marketing materials associated with the competition


  • Proof of electronic submission is not proof of receipt by ZSL.
  • ZSL regrets that it cannot accept liability for the misuse of photos and/or failure of any third party to comply with the Competition’s credit guidelines.

Data protection

  • By entering the competition each entrant agrees that, if they win, ZSL may use their name and submitted image to announce the winner of this a competition publicly and to provide them with the details of their prize.
  • By entering the competition each entrant agrees that any personal information provided by you with your competition entry may be held and used by ZSL only for the purpose of administering the competition and only for the duration of the competition.
  • If you have previously signed up to receive email communication from ZSL, or you have ticked the box to sign up whilst entering the competition, ZSL will retain and use your data in line with our privacy policy.

Governing Law

These terms and conditions shall be governed by English law, and the parties submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales