The Solent Oyster Restoration Project, spearheaded by the Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE), is restoring native oyster populations on a large scale on England’s south coast.
This collaborative project between scientists, fishermen, conservationists and local industry is aiming to restore five million oysters to the Solent waters over the next five years and reinvigorate the ecosystem services the oyster once provided.
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. Three PhD students are attached to the project:
- Luke Helmer, University of Portsmouth
- Zoë Holbrook, University of Southampton
- Christina Thiele, University of Southampton
Our partners include:
The University of Portsmouth, University of Southampton, MDL Marinas, Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority.
To find out more information about the project please visit www.bluemarinefoundation.com/project/solent and follow the story via our social media: