Country Life

Britain is their oyster

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THE reintroduc­tion of some 4,000 native oysters to British marinas and ports, in a bid to boost their waning population and make our seas cleaner, is under way.

Since the 19th century, our Ostrea edulis population has declined by 95% due to habitat loss, overharves­ting and pollution. The Wild Oysters Project, a partnershi­p between ZSL (Zoological Society of London), Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) and British Marine, seeks to reverse this by creating self-sustaining population­s of native oysters that will improve water quality, the health of fisheries and biodiversi­ty.

The project received £1.18 million from the People’s Postcode Lottery last year and has now begun work, by installing 47 nurseries of some 1,300 of these ‘ocean superheroe­s’ at Sunderland Marina and the Port of Blyth, with further sites to follow later this year.

‘These oysters will produce the next generation of the oyster population, by releasing larvae that will settle onto the seabed,’ explains Celine Gamble, ZSL’S Wild Oysters Project manager. ‘Despite their small size, oysters are capable of filtering 200 litres of water a day; the oysters will almost immediatel­y begin their important work helping to create cleaner water and increase marine biodiversi­ty in the UK.’

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