Ben Fogle returned to the Solent today, to help Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) – the UK-based marine conservation charity – roll out its plan to restore the native oyster to local waters.
The aim is to reintroduce 1 million oysters by the end of the year to help clean up the Solent, the strait that separates the Isle of Wight from mainland England and which once supported the biggest oyster fishery in Europe.
BLUE has partnered with MDL Marinas, Land Rover BAR and the University of Portsmouth to roll out the project across the Solent this April, which involves using a local team of volunteers to fill cages with 10,000 oysters, suspended underneath the pontoons of MDL’s marinas.
Ben Fogle, the broadcaster, traveller and adventurer who attended the University of Portsmouth and is a passionate marine conservationist, worked with a team of volunteers today to aid the process at MDL’s Port Hamble Marina.
Ben, who first became interested in marine pollution after rowing across the Atlantic, commented that his own experiences fuelled his desire to help with the Solent Oyster Restoration Project: “My experiences traversing the world’s oceans have opened my eyes to the scale of marine destruction. The humble oyster is an incredibly powerful ecosystem engineer, capable of filtering 200 litres of water a day and supporting marine life. Restoring the native oyster to the Solent would be another step closer to turning the tide against the large-scale degradation of our oceans, and giving something back to the UK’s inshore waters which provide us with so many benefits.”
Today, the first of many thousands of oysters were moved to permanent housing in unique cage-like structures, designed and built by MDL Marinas, which are prototypes that can be used in the future by other marinas and boat owners who wish to help to restore the native oyster. Volunteers are to lower these oyster-filled cages from the pontoons of four MDL Marinas; Hamble Point, Port Hamble, Sparkes and Saxon Wharf as well as the pontoons at Portsmouth University and the pontoon that MDL Marinas installed at Land Rover BAR HQ.
Dean Smith, Commercial Director of MDL Marinas said: “Helping to restore the native oyster population, an important part of the local ecosystem which removes pollutants and provides habitats, is one of many ways that the boating community can give back to the ocean and improve the local waters around us for our future enjoyment.”
The native oyster population in the UK has halved over the last 25 years, while globally an estimated 85% of oyster beds and reef habitats have been lost. The restoration of the native oyster will provide wide-ranging ecological and social benefits for the region over the long-term by helping to improve water quality, foster valuable habitats and re-establish an important strand of the economy on the South Coast.
Leading a coalition made up of fishermen, marine and local authorities, scientists and conservationists, BLUE seeks to significantly increase the population of native oysters in the Solent by 2020 with the long-term aim of achieving sustainable stocks and with the likely added benefit of improved Solent water quality, ecosystems and associated benefits for local inshore fisheries.
Tim Glover, BLUE’s UK Projects Director explained the significance of the next stage of the Solent Oyster Restoration Project: “Last year we started this project with pilots at Land Rover BAR and the University of Portmouth’s raft in Langstone Harbour (monitored by scientists from the University) which showed that the technique of suspending cages of oysters under floating pontoons can result in healthy reproduction and low mortality. Now BLUE is ready to go a stage further. Our aim is to introduce up to 1 million oysters to the Solent over the course of 2017, mostly into protected seabed sites. We hope this five-year programme will have a transformational effect on the Solent in the long-term.”
Five Reasons To Restore Oysters to the Solent
- Oysters can improve water quality by filtering large volumes of water and removing some pollutants (a single native oyster can filter up to 200 litres of water a day).
- Oyster beds provide a habitat and rich food source for marine life and can increase the productivity of the ecosystem.
- The restoration of oyster habitats could help to boost some fish populations and improve catches for both recreational and commercial fishermen over the long-term.
- Alongside careful fisheries management it wi help to ensure a sustainable supply of oysters for harvesting in the long term – re-establishing an important strand of the economy on the south coast.
- Finally, oysters provide a range of important ecosystem services that will help to improve the health of an entire waterway providing enhanced recreational and other social benefits for both local communities and visitors to the Solent.
Jo Grindley, CMO/CCO of Land Rover BAR said: “Sustainability is an integral part of our ethos and working alongside our Exclusive Sustainability Partner 11th Hour Racing we are committed to becoming the most sustainable sports team in the UK. With an opportunity to make a real impact on the ecosystem on our doorstep, in partnership with MDL Marinas, BLUE and the University of Portsmouth, we were delighted to host the first trial under our pontoon at our base in Portsmouth. To see the impact that can be made when key companies partner together is particularly exciting and we look forward to seeing the positive effect this project will have in the Solent and hope it will inspire others to take action.”
For more information about BLUE, please click here.