BLUE plans to restore oysters to the Solent

April 20, 2015

The BLUE Marine Foundation announces plans to restore the native oyster in the Solent, once the biggest oyster fishery in Europe.

A coalition led by BLUE will announce its intention of restoring a healthy population of oysters to the Solent, once the biggest oyster fishery in Europe, by 2025 at a meeting near Southampton on 21 April 2015.

The announcement follows the publication of a new study by MacAlister Elliott and Partners of Lymington, which was funded by MDL Marinas – the owner of seven marinas along the Solent – that suggests a portfolio of techniques could be used for oyster restoration.

The new report suggests that techniques such as suspending bags of oysters under rafts in marinas to enhance the amount of oyster juveniles or “spat” reaching the oyster beds, could be used to restore the oyster fishery. Other ways proposed include providing local hatcheries and enhancing existing structures, such as docks and pontoons, so oysters can settle on them.

Charles Clover, chairman of the BLUE Marine Foundation said: “We are very excited that people think it is feasible to bring back the oyster to the Solent. The loss of it has not only affected fishermen’s jobs but it has deprived this busy waterway of the filtering power of these bivalves and the high levels of biodiversity associated with oyster beds.

“We take inspiration from the restoration efforts going on in the United States, particularly around New York, once one of the biggest concentrations of oysters in the world. If they can re-seed a billion oysters in New York harbour by 2030, I don’t see why we can’t do it in the Solent and in the process bring back an important native species and restore an important strand of the economy on the south coast.”

The Solent’s oyster fishery, which dates back to Roman times, had been the largest remaining fishery in Europe for the native oyster, Ostrea edulis. As recently as 1978, up to 450 boats made a living from catching oysters in the Solent, employing more than 700 men at sea.
Fishing for oysters in the Solent was banned in 2013 over fears of plummeting numbers. That ban remains in place two years on.

Oysters perform many useful ecological functions. They remove significant amounts of nitrates and phosphates from water, trapping carbon dioxide in their shells. A single native oyster can filter up to 200 litres of water a day. A one hectare oyster bed may remove and deposit over 7.5 tonnes of suspended sediment.

Restoring the oyster to the Solent could help tackle many of the pressing pollution problems that beset the waterway.

The coalition, which represents a range of local interests, including the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, fishermen, academics and businessmen, is also publishing its vision for the Solent, for which it has already attracted some funding but which will need more to get the project rolling over the next five years.

The documents are available via the links above and comments are welcome on info@bluemarinefoundation.com.