THE Thames Estuary is famous for its oysters and shellfish. Our nostalgic photo gallery this week shows men hard at work oyster and cockle fishing in Leigh and Southend during the 1970s and 1980s.

Over the years Essex’s native oyster population has sadly declined rapidly due to historic over-harvesting, disease, competition from invasive species and predators.

In a bid to help restore our local seabeds, Essex University students have been working hard to reintroduce more than 25,000 mature native oysters to the county’s waters.

The conservation project is an attempt to restore a nationally important oyster breeding population that once supported hundreds of fishermen in the county.