The Scottish Oyster Shucking Championships have made a successful return following a two-year Covid-enforced break, reports Paul Scott.

Competition judge David Jarrad, chief executive of the Shellfish Association of Great Britain, with Alexander Wallace, this year’s shucking champion.

The competition returned as part of the Stranraer Oyster Festival, a three-day event held to celebrate Scotland’s only remaining wild, native oyster fishery, and which marks the opening of the British native oyster season.

This year’s shucking competition, hosted by the 2019 champion, Tristan Hugh-Jones of Loch Ryan Oyster Fishery Company, saw Alexander Wallace named Scotland’s top shucker.

He will go on to represent Scotland at next week’s World Championships at the Galway International Oyster Festival.

Each competitor was required to open 30 oysters in under three minutes, with points awarded for the speed of opening, plus the presentation of the tray of opened oysters. The test for the judges was how attractive the tray would look for a customer in a hotel or restaurant.

The judging panel, consisting of David Jarrad, chief executive of the Shellfish Association of Great Britain, and shellfish expert Janet Brown commented on the quality of shucking, ‘with no penalties awarded to the winner’s oysters’.

2022 champion Alexander Wallace serving oysters.

“The standard of shucking in the championship was very high, and it was a tightly contested final. My congratulations go to all the competitors who took part,” said Tristan Hugh-Jones.

More than 18,000 people attended the festival, held from 2 to 4 September, despite heavy rain and weather warnings. More than 7,500 oysters were eaten.

“This was a brilliantly organised event that we were delighted to be part of. What struck me this year was that despite the extreme swings in weather conditions, I have never seen a festival so busy, or enthusiasm and a determination to enjoy an event so high, and that was an absolute joy to experience,” said Tristan Hugh-Jones.

The festival programme included demonstrations and events by celebrity chefs Clodagh McKenna and Tony Singh, live music, ‘extreme pond-dipping’, an artisan market, children’s entertainment and a spectacular firework display.

Celebrity chef Tony Singh taking part in the ShuckOff.

Romano Petrucci, chair of Stranraer Development Trust, the community organisation behind the oyster festival, said: “While the rain fell endlessly from the heavens on Saturday, local people and visitors to the area came out in their thousands.

“It was humbling to watch people disregarding the torrential rain, filling the marquees all around and having an absolutely fantastic time. The whole festival was an incredible success, and when Sunday brought sunshine and blue skies above the sparkling clear water of Loch Ryan, it was a magical finish to a spectacular weekend.”

Organisers say the Stranraer Oyster Festival is credited with ‘changing the story of Stranraer, from one of economic deprivation to one of potential’. The last festival, in 2019, was independently assessed to have generated more than £1m in economic impact, and has ‘paved the way for other major events to take place in the town’.

“This is the fourth Stranraer Oyster Festival, and we sold a record number of oysters, with well over a thousand people trying oysters for the very first time. We had about a dozen oysters shuckers giving lots of oyster eating advice and encouragement,” said Tristan Hugh-Jones.

“One of the loveliest moments was a young lad, aged about seven years old, who fell in love with oysters during the festival and brought his friends and his family up to the oyster bar repeatedly, encouraging them to try too.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here


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