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Councillor says oyster racks in Whitstable are a danger to swimmers

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Oyster racks in the sea off Whitstable have been labelled a “sea of bayonets” by a concerned councillor.

Ashley Clark (Con) fears the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company’s farming racks, which have been in the water for decades, could kill unaware swimmers and sailors.

Directors at the Fishery, which is run by the Green family, say they would welcome opinions on how to improve the safety of the area but the racks are legitimately sited.

The oyster racks off Whitstable
The oyster racks off Whitstable

Cllr Clark (Con) said: “This isn’t Vlad the Impaler – it’s Green the Impaler.

“The section of coast where the oyster racks are is like a sea of bayonets.

“When submerged by the water, they are a serious hazard. The spiked racks are a danger to navigation and swimmers, particularly those who might be unfamiliar with the area and young people learning to sail at the sailing school who drift.”

He also highlighted a lack of signposting as a danger that needs to be addressed.

“They have been marked in an extremely slipshod manner and are not lit in the navigable zone at night,” he said.

Cllr Ashley Clark
Cllr Ashley Clark

“There are some buoys with flags on bamboo poles but these are poorly maintained. Some racks have been dumped in the navigable area with no markings whatsoever.

“In rough seas, which are favoured by windsurfers, the flimsy poles disappear under the waves and the spikes can be just a few inches below the surface. This is potentially lethal.”

Mr Clark also complained about the machinery the Fishery stores on the beach.

“The area of beach by the Horsebridge has been converted into something reminiscent of a scrap metal yard, with all sorts of metal and equipment lying around,” he said.

“This adversely affects public amenity. There has been an uncontrolled creep of parked yachts down from the harbour on to Reeves beach.

“The annual blessing of the waters ceremony is now something of an assault course for the officiating clergy.”

Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company boss James Green
Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company boss James Green

Fishery director James Green said the company had the right to keep the racks there and no reports of problems had been received.

He said: “The Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company’s oyster farm is licensed by the Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science as a production area for oysters.

“After discussions with the Marine and Maritime Organisation, suitable buoyage, as approved by Trinity House, has been placed to mark the area of the farm, using special marker buoys with signage.

“The fishery is committed to maintaining the town as a production area for the world-famous Whitstable oyster in a safe and sustainable manner, and would welcome any input from local water users that they feel would better ensure that the area is safely marked ongoing to prevent accidents.

“As yet, we have not received any representations, nor indeed reports of any problems.”

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