Solent Oyster Restoration Project
Restoring native oyster populations

Photos: with copyright

England
Solent Oyster Restoration Project

The Solent Oyster Restoration Project, spearheaded by the Blue Marine Foundation (Blue Marine), is restoring native oyster populations on a large scale on England’s south coast.

This collaborative project between conservationists, fishermen, NGOs and local industry is aiming to restore four hectares of restored oyster reef to the Solent waters over the next five years (2023-2027) and reinvigorate the ecosystem services the oyster once provided. The Solent Oyster Restoration Project efforts will contribute towards the goals of the Solent Seascape Project, which is pioneering multi-habitat restoration of seagrass meadow, saltmarsh, and seabird nesting habitats alongside the existing oyster restoration work.

The Solent is the strait of water that separates the Isle of Wight from mainland UK, its oyster populations have been exploited since Roman times and between 1972 – 2006 it was Europe’s largest self-sustaining oyster fishery. However, overfishing, disease and predation caused its collapse and eventual closure in 2013, with only very limited, occasional access to fishers since that date.

Through the following strategies, the Solent Oyster Restoration Project aims to restore native oyster beds and the associated benefits that they bring:

  • Broodstock cages:
    In order to increase the number of breeding oysters within the Solent, oysters are placed at high densities in cages that are hung from existing pontoons, below the surface of the water. Easy access to these oysters allows their physiological and reproductive state to be monitored regularly.
  • Seabed restoration:
    To promote natural recruitment and re-establish wild oyster beds, sanctuary seabed sites will be restored on a large scale. Oyster beds will be placed in areas closed to commercial fishing and allowed to flourish and develop.
  • Community outreach:
    Through volunteer programmes and school visits, the project is raising awareness for the need for oyster restoration.

In order to put in to context the potential successes and failures of the restorative process, extensive monitoring and environmental data will be collected throughout the term of the project and beyond. PhD student attached to the project is:

‘How to build an oyster reef’ is the latest film from the Solent Seascape Project, that documents how the Solent Oyster Restoration Project completed their second seabed reef restoration in the Hamble Estuary, Solent UK.
Native Oysters with crab in Portsmouth Harbour. Photo: Luke Helmer
For further details please see: 
Solent Oyster Restoration Project Overview

To find out more information about the project

please visit www.bluemarinefoundation.com/project/solent and follow the story via our social media:

  • Twitter: @solentnative
  • Instagram: @solentoyster
  • Facebook: /SolentOysterRestorationProject

Contact:

Our partners include:

The University of Portsmouth, University of Southampton, MDL Marinas, Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority.