Celebration of the sea taking place this weekend in Port St Mary

A spiny starfish

A spiny starfish

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The Queenie Festival celebration of the sea takes place this Saturday and Sunday at Port St Mary harbour.

The ever-popular marine life touch tanks will be there, operated by Manx Wildlife Trust (MWT), on both days from 11am to 5pm.

There will also be live cookery demonstrations and stalls.

You can have a go at angling off the Albert pier thanks to sessions provided by Mannin Angling Club, from 11am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday.

The club’s kayak fishing group is doing a display and demonstrating how this form of fishing is used as therapy for injured servicemen and women.

Model boat enthusiasts can enjoy Manx Model Boat Club’s Av-A-Go boats, the charge for steering the model boats will go to the RNLI.

During this time, the Royal Navy’s fishery protection vessel HMS Severn will be in Port St Mary and the crew will be taking part in the festival.

Sadly, two evening events planned have been cancelled due to lack of ticket sales. There was to be a maritime marquee dance on Friday night on the Alfred pier and a seafood extravaganza on Saturday night

The MWT touch-tanks remain an ever popular draw for those planning to attend the festival. Under a marquee the touch tanks will be manned by the charity’s volunteers, who will also have volunteers manning the festival’s entrance gate. The gate fees for the whole festival are: adults £3, under-14s £1 and it’s free for four years and under.

Lara Howe, MWT marine officer, said: ‘We should have creatures like starfish, sea urchins, crabs, lobster, hopefully scallops, seaweed, fish and maybe some mussels.’

Tanks might also hold some ‘invasive species’ of marine life such as the Pacific Oyster, Darwin’s Barnacle or Wire Weed – the latter being an invasive seaweed that’s now quite prolific.

Local divers will be going this week to obtain the marine life for the tanks.

Some of the sea life, such as starfish and crabs, young people are given the opportunity to handle.

The festival committee – which includes Rushen MHKs Phil Gawne, Laurence Skelly and Juan Watterson – with help from Switched On Entertainments have organised this year’s festival.

The queenie fishing industry was dealt a blow recently with the news scientists recommended queenie scallop fishing is suspended to allow stocks to recover. This was in response to estimated queenie stocks being less than half their historic levels and 85 per cent down on the peak level seen in 2011-12.

The Queen Scallop Management Board has decided that more assessment is needed before a decision is taken.

Environment minister Phil Gawne said: ‘The festival committee considered in some depth whether it would be appropriate to continue [with the festival], given the problems with the industry. We recognise it is going to be a very difficult year for the queenie industry. We also recognise this should be short term and the festival, like the industry, is there for the long term. We will be standing in support of those going to be having a hard time and this is an opportunity for the community to show its support to the queenie industry.’

The Queenie Festival started in 2008 and was the brainchild of Port St Mary’s Tim Croft and Graham Hall, but Tim stepped down in 2012 and the MHKs stepped in to continue the festival.

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