A research programme hopes to restore the overfished population of oysters off the south coast of England with high density dwelling to encourage the mollusc to make babies. Stuart McDill reports.
This is high density dwelling for oysters. It's part of a research effort to restore the molluscA to the Solent, a stretch of water along the south coast of England, which saw its natural oyster population fished to the point of collapse. Now, with protections in place - it's hoped oysters can help us start repairing our degraded oceans. TIM GLOVER - BLUE MARINE FOUNDATION "Oysters are filter feeders. A single oyster will filter two hundred litres a day so we're trying to put five million into the Solent, so imagine how many billions of litres of water are going to be cleaned every day by that. So that's one of the functions of the oyster. But they also provide habitat when they start to thrive again and form oyster beds, they provide good habitats for other animals and sea life." Reasearchers say native oyster numbers in UK waters have halved in 25 years - globally as much as 85 percent of oyster beds have been lost. And the fewer there are - the harder it is for them to reproduce. LUKE HELMER PHD RESEARCHER, UNIVERSITY OF PORTSMOUTH "So these cages are filled with mature oysters and the hope is that they'll be in close proximity so when the males release their sperm into the water column the females will take it in easier than if they were in low density beds and it's hoped that this will increase the reproduction success and that they'll produce loads of lavae that will enter the water column and spread across the whole Solent and stock areas that can be used both for the fishery and that can be protected as well." A coalition of scientists, fishermen and conservationists hope to introduce a million oysters into the Solent this year And say they hope the five year programme will see a transformational effect on the local water quality.