Millions of native oysters to be returned to the Solent

26 Views

Millions of native oysters are to be put into the Solent, once the site of Europe’s largest oyster fishery.

The five-year project aims first to restore a thriving oyster population to the waters between the south coast and Isle of Wight. Oyster beds provide habitat for many other species and the shellfish filter vast volumes of water – 200 litres per oyster – helping to clean up pollution. Once re-established, significant oyster fishing could resume.

“We hope this programme will have a transformational effect on the Solent in the long-term,” said Tim Glover, at the Blue Marine Foundation, which is leading the project. A million young oysters will be put into the Solent in 2017, in places where they cannot be legally fished. A further 10,000 are being put in special cages in harbours, from where they can send out larvae.

“It’s a really great project and it could have a phenomenal impact,” said Jo Preston, a marine biologist at the University of Portsmouth who is monitoring the project. “Without a helping hand it is very unlikely the oysters are going to get going again.”

Oysters have been fished in the UK since at least Roman times and at its peak in the 1920s 40 million oysters were eaten each year, with the abundance leading to the mollusc being known as a poor man’s food. But by the 1960s this had fallen to 3 million oysters a year.

The population in the Solent crashed again recently, with the annual catch falling from 200 tonnes in 2007 to just 20 tonnes in 2011 – about 250,000 shells – and oyster fishing was banned in the Solent in 2013. “It’s a perfect storm of overfishing, habitat destruction, dredging, climate change, disease, invasive species and quite possibly pollution,” said Preston.

About the author

Related Articles

St.Mary’s Annual Feast 2015 Live
IBC Exclusive Interviews