Conservation project brings native oysters back to the Clyde in yacht marina nurseries

Thousands of wild oysters are making a new home in the Clyde as part of a ground-breaking reintroduction project that aims to bring back the native species to waters around the UK where they were once common.

Conservationists have brought 1,300 of the molluscs to the Firth of Clyde placing them at protected sites beneath pontoons at Largs Yacht Haven and Fairlie Quay Marina.

The move is part of the Wild Oysters Project, a partnership between the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Blue Marine Foundation and British Marine, which aims to help restore healthy, resilient coastal waters around the UK.

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Oysters have earned the title ‘ocean superheroes’ for the benefits they provide to the marine environment, including filtering pollutants from the water and providing important habitat for other sealife.

Native oysters have all but disappeared from waters around the UK, with only a handful of populations known to remain in the Clyde

But populations of native oysters have been almost wiped out in UK waters due to over-fishing and other human activities, declining by 95 per cent over the past couple of centuries.   

The ZSL project is aiming to restore the shellfish to areas where they were once abundant.

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The first Scottish oyster nurseries are being established by suspending the shellfish underneath marina pontoons in Largs, creating a micro habitat where they can spawn future generations.

Now 1,300 native oysters have been relocated to the Clyde as part of the UK-wide Wild Oysters Project

The oysters will begin reproducing over the next few months, releasing millions of babies, known as larvae, into the surrounding sea. 

Just a handful of known oyster populations remain in the Clyde, but it’s hope this will soon change.

Celine Gamble, Wild Oysters Project manager for ZSL, said: “Now the oysters are in their new home in the marinas, they will almost immediately begin their important work, each filtering 200 litres of water a day.

“In the coming months the oysters will start to produce the next generation of the oyster population by releasing larvae which will then settle onto the seabed. 

Wild Oysters Project team David Nairn of Clyde Porpoise CIC, Celine Gamble of ZSL and Jacob Kean Hammerson of Blue Marine Foundation have helped settle the oysters in their new Scottish home at a marina in Largs

"It’s our ambition that the project will help to create cleaner water, healthier fisheries and plentiful marine biodiversity in Britain.”

The project has partnered locally with the Clyde Porpoise CIC (Community Interest Company)  and local working group Fairlie Coastal Trust.

Local project officer for the initiative and Clyde Porpoise CIC founder David Nairn said: “Inshore dredging, pollution, climate change and illegal shellfish harvesting have all contributed to the demise of the native oyster population here in the Firth of Clyde.

“Restoring this incredible species under marina pontoons will enable us to support healthy coastal waters in the Clyde and across Scotland, while also providing an outdoor classroom for local schools and communities, creating a ‘window’ into the ocean to inspire the next generation to protect and care for the marine environment.” 

The Wild Oysters Project is a three-year initiative, backed by £1.18 million of funding from the Postcode Dream Trust, which gives organisations the opportunity to bring ambitious, innovative and collaborative projects to life. 

A total of 4,000 native oysters have been deployed into nurseries under marina pontoons across the UK so far, with other sites in Tyne and Wear in England and Conwy Bay in Wales.   

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