Wild Oyster project to increase British native oyster population receives a boost

A project that aims to increase oyster populations and improve biodiversity in three areas of Britain has been awarded £1,180,000.

The Wild Oysters project aims to recover the native oyster populations which will in turn see cleaner water, healthier fisheries and plentiful marine biodiversity in Britain. It is a partnership between ZSL (Zoological Society of London), Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) and British Marine.

The £1,180,000, awarded by the People’s Postcode Lottery, will allow oyster nurseries, suspended under marina pontoons, to release the next generation of baby oysters to the seabed.

The young oysters, known as spat, will settle across the three oyster reefs created across British estuaries including the River Conwy in Wales), Firth of Clyde in Scotland and Tyne and Wear coastal water body in England.

The Wild Oysters project will work together with local partners to commence the restoration of the 20,000km2 of oyster reefs that have been lost from around the coastline of Britain.

Across the UK, wild native oysters have declined by over 95% with the dramatic decrease due to a combination of over-harvesting, habitat loss, pollution and disease.

However, healthy oyster beds are hugely productive and help a rich biodiversity of associated species to thrive. They provide important fish nursery ground habitat, supporting commercially important species such as seabass, bream and edible crabs.

Alison Debney, ZSL Senior Conservation Programme Manager, said, “Despite their small size they’re [oysters] capable of making huge changes in our marine environment.

“Our dream is to grow a self-sustaining population of native oysters in the UK. This funding awarded by Postcode Dream Trust means we now have the potential to release nine billion native oyster larvae into the ocean creating oyster nurseries in UK waters, work with local communities to care for our oceans superheroes and connect people and wildlife.”

The Wild Oysters project will engage thousands of volunteers, from schools, Girl Guides and Scouts, university students, and local community groups to spread the word about the importance and significance of increasing oyster population.

Image Credit: ZSL

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com

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