First settling experiments
in the no-fishing zone near Helgoland

Photo: AWI/Mueller-Elsner

Germany: RESTORE – Oyster Restoration Project

Logos AWI BfN HS Bremerhaven

Background:

In the German North Sea, where it was historically widespread, the Native European Oyster (Ostrea edulis) has been classified as functionally extinct since the mid-20th century. Individual live specimens are only rarely found and the species is on the Red List of endangered species. Recolonisation is evidently prevented by on-going operation of intensive bottom trawl fishery.
The German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) has been involved in protecting and investigating this endangered species for some years. At national level, BfN commissioned and evaluated a feasibility study on possibilities and chances for restoration of the European flat oyster in the German North Sea. For the implementation in the field, the research project RESTORE (a testing and development project) was launched in April 2016. The project brings together researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and the BfN Marine Nature Conservation Directorate in developing and testing offshore methods for the long-term restoration of oyster stocks in the German North Sea.

RESTORE project

Project beneficiary: Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), Bremerhaven
Project funding: German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)
Project term: 2016 – 2019.

Work packages:

  • Reviewing and setting the legal framework
  • Knowledge transfer with international oyster restoration projects and establishing a European network
  • Investigating oyster biology
  • Identification of suitable areas for recolonisation (site selection)
  • Identification of suitable seed-oyster sources and substrate technology
  • Field experiments with oysters of various age and size classes to study growth, fitness and health condition in the wild
  • Engaging potential stakeholders: e.g. fishery and mariculture

Goal:

The project outcome will provide the basis for developing a long-term restoration programme for the European flat oyster in German waters. A basic requirement is the exclusion of all seabed-modifying activities such as bottom trawling or sand and gravel extraction at planned restoration sites. This requirement could be met in marine protected areas within the German Exclusive Economic Zone once such activities would be excluded here. For the testing, the first experiments were conducted in the fishery closure zone around an offshore windfarm near Helgoland.
The long-term goal is to establish a healthy stock of European flat oysters in the German North Sea and, to the greatest extent possible, restoration of biodiverse, biogenic reefs – a unique form of ecosystem in our marine waters.

Some actual results:

Please look here:
https://www.awi.de/en/science/biosciences/shelf-sea-system-ecology/main-research-focus/european-oyster.html
https://www.bfn.de/en/activities/marine-nature-conservation/marine-arten/artenschutzprojekte/restoration-of-the-european-flat-oyster.html

Contact:

Dr. Bernadette Pogoda
bernadette.pogoda@awi.de