In yet another blow for fans of marine conservation in the UK and around the world, another sea life tragedy unfolded at first light on Sunday morning when a dog walker in Old Leigh discovered that an oyster had been washed up on the beach next to the public toilets and Bell Wharf. A team of diving specialists and vets arrived within a few minutes to try and revive the oyster, but unfortunately these attempts were in vain. Council officials then taped off the area while discussions took place about what to do next.
As Sunday morning progressed, people arrived from both the local area and beyond as word of the tragedy spread on Facebook, and a queue of people wanting their photo taken with the oyster stretched right from the site to Leigh Station at one point. Local businesses reported a sharp rise in trade, and the surrounding seafood stalls all saw a number of people who were keen to try an oyster after learning more about their tragic plight to survive in the waters of The Thames.
Leviathan Montrose-Nash, manager of swanky eaterie Le Pamplemousse Confondu in Leigh, arrived with his family to catch a glimpse of the oyster. He said: ‘Seeing this majestic and calamitous clam looking so washed-up and helpless was sad enough in itself, but the real tragedy here is that we don’t have any means of proving that it has been caught ethically and with consideration for surrounding members of the shellfish population. With this sort of fairtrade documentation in place, I would have been able to rescue the oyster and put it straight onto our menu, with all proceeds going towards Shellfish Welfare UK, if that is indeed a real charity. This would have been welcome publicity for our restaurant as a lot of people are still unhappy with us over how we handled the recent jam knife scandal.’
According to Southend Tourism chiefs, changing climate conditions in the estuary could mean that this is the first of many animals that will soon be appearing on the South Essex coastline. A spokesperson said: ‘We have recently seen a dead whale and now this tragic oyster on local beaches, and the interest that they generate in the area is potentially massive. It is only a matter of time before a variety of live and exotic animals arrive by sea, and we are anticipating elephants and giraffes by 2030 if the conditions allow.’
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