Jill off the menu, recognised as world’s heaviest oyster

Bernie Connell with the biggest oyster, Jill at 3.01kg
Bernie Connell and Jill, who weighed 3.01kg.

A pet parade, but for giant oysters

Jill the oyster is permanently off the menu after being named Australia’s Biggest Oyster at the 17th Narooma Oyster Festival on Saturday, May 4.

Not only is she the biggest in Australia, but at 3.01kg she is also the heaviest in the world – a record her owners Bernie and Sharryn Connell and the Narooma Rocks team are now seeking to make official.

Jill retained her crown after adding 270 grams to her already record breaking weight in 2023, beating a strong field of contenders which included second placed ‘Big Boppa’ (2.44kg) another entrant from the Connell stable, and ‘Keithy’ grown by their son Steven Connell who came in third at 2.40kg.

Incredibly, champion shuckers and twin brothers John and Jim Yiannaros came equal fourth with ‘Nick’ and ‘Georgia’ both weighing in at 2.18kg.

Jill’s growth spurt and weight came as a surprise to Bernie and Sharryn who were unable to weigh the oyster before her appearance because “the bloody scales were out of batteries.”

“I’m pretty stoked,” Connell told the Guardian’s Daisy Dumas. “It’s an achievement all right – Cath (Chair of Narooma Rocks) persevered and got it, we owe it all to her.”

While there’s a lot of fun and camaraderie on the stage, the testing is stringent. Pip Boyton, General Manager of Marine Operations, ensured that all  oysters passed the first rule. All entries must be a single oyster with no other smaller oysters or marine growth ‘piggy-backing’ on the shell.

Then, Dr Kate LeBars from Montague Vets checked each oyster’s vital signs, making sure it was healthy and most importantly live. She checks each one with her stethoscope and then administers the ‘sniff’ test.

Pip Boyton, Operations Manager Australia's Oyster Coast, Dr Kate Le Bars, MC Shanna Provost,Bernie Connell
Pip Boyton, General manager of Marine Operations, Australia's Oyster Coast, Dr Kate Le Bars of Montague Vets, MC Shanna Provost and Bernie Connell weigh Jill.

Festival calls for a new world standard

The Narooma Oyster Festival measures their biggest oyster by weight. The Festival and the Australian Book of Records understand that the record for the world’s heaviest oyster is held by a 1.5 kilogram oyster in Holland.

Cath Peachey, Chair of Narooma Rocks, who presents the Narooma Oyster Festival, said Australia’s Biggest Oyster was launched to set a new standard for celebrating big oysters after a failed attempt to enter the Guinness World Records in 2019.

“When we realised how just how big these oysters can grow in our estuaries we wanted to celebrate them and their growers on a larger scale,” she said.

“You only have to look around Australia to see that ‘big’ things hold a fascination for people, like the big Merino in Goulburn, the big Banana in Coffs Harbour and the big prawn at Ballina.”

“Interestingly, and unfortunately for Bernie, the Guinness World Records committee measures the World’s Biggest Oyster by length, not weight.

“Not only that, but they allow what we call ‘piggybacks’ which are smaller oysters that grow on top of the big oyster whereas our rules state that these must be removed.

“We contested this and requested a new category be established for heaviest oyster, but were knocked back.”

The official process has begun to have Jill recognised by the Australian Book of Records as the World’s Heaviest Oyster. Founder Helen Taylor said it was exciting to welcome another great Australian icon, the oyster, to the fold.

“No record exists for the largest oyster by weight,” she said.

“The Australian Book of Records made a decision to accept the biggest oyster by weight and congratulate the Bernie, Sharryn and the Narooma Oyster Festival for their outstanding achievement on their new world record.”

See the full results here

Sharryn Connell with Big Boppa.
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