Researchers from the University of Portsmouth are playing a significant role in a major conservation project to restore the native oyster to local waters.

The aim is to reintroduce one million oysters by the end of the year to help clean up the Solent, which once supported the biggest oyster fishery in Europe. The project seeks to significantly increase the population of native oysters in the Solent by 2020 with the long-term aim of achieving sustainable stocks and with the likely added benefit of improved Solent water quality and the health of the coastal waters, ecosystems and associated benefits for inshore fisheries for the local economy

Today (20 April) Ben Fogle former University of Portsmouth student returned to the Solent to help Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) – the UK-based marine conservation charity – launch the project.

BLUE has partnered with the University of Portsmouth and together they will roll out the project across the Solent this April. It involves using a local team of volunteers to fill unique cage-like structures with 10,000 oysters suspended underneath the pontoons of Portsmouth University and the pontoons of Marinas across the Solent.

University researchers will gather data to assess the current situation on the sea bed with regards to the native oyster and invasive slipper limpet densities. This will allow the researchers to target certain areas for seafloor management and then go back after the restoration effort and assess the impact of the work. By monitoring and data collecting over the next 3 years it will further our understanding of how to manage and protect this important, but vulnerable native species across the UK.

Tim Glover, BLUE’s UK Projects Director explained the significance of the next stage of the Solent Oyster Restoration Project: “Last year we started this project with pilots at the University of Portsmouth’s raft in Langstone Harbour (monitored by scientists from the University) which showed that the technique of suspending cages of oysters under floating pontoons can result in healthy reproduction and low mortality. Now BLUE is ready to go a stage further. Our aim is to introduce up to 1 million oysters to the Solent over the course of 2017, mostly into protected seabed sites. We hope this five-year programme will have a transformational effect on the Solent in the long-term.”

For more information or to donate to BLUE, please go to the website here