“Just look at these beauties, I’ve prettied them up a bit by removing most of the cunjevoi and that, but I’ll do more for the show,” said Clyde River oyster farmer Bernie Connell.
Above: Bernie Connell, Jack and friends.Clyde River oyster farmer Bernie Connell with international star and pet oyster Jack (in disguise) and friends, all five years old. All are being prepared for what promises to be a very competitive contest for Australia’s Biggest Oyster at this year’s Narooma Oyster Festival. Photo Laurelle Pacey
Bernie is coy about just where on the river he keeps his pet oyster Jack and his fellow contenders for the Australia’s Biggest Oyster title at this year’s Narooma Oyster Festival (Saturday 4 May), so he brought them to the wharf at Batemans Bay for a photo shoot. He even seemed coy about which one was Jack, but said with their ‘disguise’ he actually wasn’t sure.
Nor will they be subjected to the handling they were before last year’s contest when everyone wanted a photo. “With all the handling in the two week’s leading up to it, Jack lost over 300g,” Bernie said.
Jack and his friends have not needed any special diet, according to Bernie. “They’ve put on about half a kilo in the year and that’s just from being in the good sweet waters of the Clyde eating as much algae as they could.”
Bernie and Jack shot to international stardom at last year’s Narooma Oyster Festival in search of the Guinness Book of Records’ World’s Biggest Oyster title. However, such was not to be because that title is determined by length not weight even though Jack clearly weighed more than the current champion.
Bernie said Jack was “quite relaxed and laid back” about his celebrity status, even during guest appearances at Batemans Bay following last year’s Festival. “But he’s now a year older so I’ll have to keep an eye on him.”
The Festival committee was unable to interest the Guinness people in an antipodean challenge, so have now mounted their own national competition.
“The big oysters are Pacifics which are only grown in the Clyde and Shoalhaven on NSW’s south coast, and we understand a number of these growers have a few pet oysters lining up,” said Festival spokesperson Niels Bendixsen. “We’re also hoping for entries from interstate as well as elsewhere in NSW.
“Three criteria have to be met – it has to be a single oyster, alive and the heaviest on the day, and Dr Kate Le Bars from Montague Vets will ensure all criteria are met.”
For more information, please check the Festival website. www.naroomaoysterfestival.com.
Above: Bernie Connell and possibly JackClyde River oyster farmer Bernie Connell with international star and pet oyster Jack (in disguise). Jack and his friends are being prepared for what promises to be a very competitive contest for Australia’s Biggest Oyster at this year’s Narooma Oyster Festival. Photo Laurelle Pacey