Million-pound boost for Britain’s native oyster population

International conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London) along with partners Blue Marine Foundation and British Marine are celebrating a win for wildlife on World Oyster Day (5 August) after they received an award of £1,180,000 to boost British native oyster populations – the biggest project of its kind in the UK.

The funding has been raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and awarded as part of the Dream Fund, which gives charities the opportunity to bring a dream project to life. It will help the ‘Wild Oysters’ project to recover the native oyster populations which will in turn see cleaner water, healthier fisheries and plentiful marine biodiversity in Britain.

Across the UK wild native oysters (Ostrea edulis) 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.

Bringing conservation and industry together, the unique partnership 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 (Wales), Firth of Clyde (Scotland) and Tyne and Wear coastal water body (England). The 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.

The oyster nurseries will provide a ‘unique window into the ocean’ which the project’s backers hope will allow them to inspire the next generation to protect and enhance the marine environment.

“It’s wonderful to celebrate this win for oysters on World Oyster day – they are the superheroes of our oceans,” says ZSL senior conservation programme manager, Alison Debney. “Despite their small size they’re 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.  

“Thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery we hope to see healthy, resilient, coastal waters and make a remarkable difference to the future of wild oysters.”

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