Information revealed that the populations of British oysters have fallen to dangerously low levels around the Solent area. The main reason for such a fall is the tingle, a tiny sea snail or whelk that bores a hole into the oysters and sucks out the flesh. They have given warning that the pests could spread from the Solent to Essex, or Cornwall, the two main oyster growing areas in Britain.
It is told that 20 years ago, the oyster winter season in the Solent was worth £2 million a year when about 160 boats collectively hauled in more than 1,500 tonnes – about half the British catch. But now fewer than ten boats trawl the oyster beds and the Solent produces no more than about 5 percent of natives, according to the Shellfish Association of Great Britain.
Terry Lankford, a shellfish merchant based in Hythe, expressed that he was convinced the tingle was responsible for killing the oysters. He told that the industry will collapse unless some changes done immediately. There will always be some oysters there, but it will become economically unviable for the fishermen to work. Due to such a shortfall the length of the regulated oyster season was cut this winter from 11 weeks to just five, starting on November 2 and finishing on December 4.
David Jarrard, assistant director of the Shellfish Association of Great Britain, said that at the moment the tingle is a localised problem around the Solent, but all stocks could be affected if it spread down the south coast or around to Essex.