First oysters to be transferred to the Solent in fishing bid

Image source, Blue Marine Foundation
Image caption, The project to restore the native oyster population in the Solent is being led by Blue Marine Foundation

Juvenile oysters are to be transferred to the Solent in a bid to revive oyster fishing in its waters.

The practise was banned in 2013 after annual harvests of the molluscs plummeted from 200 to 20 tonnes in the space of five years.

TV presenter and adventurer Ben Fogle has backed the Blue Marine Foundation project and will help transfer the first 1,500 oysters.

Olympic champion Sir Ben Ainslie has already supported the bid.

Oyster fishing in the Solent was banned after the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Project found the molluscs were failing to reproduce as a result of water quality, invasive species and over fishing.

A pilot project, involving adult oysters, was previously held at Ainslie's racing team's base and at the University of Portsmouth's raft in Langstone Harbour.

Following its success, Blue Marine Foundation said 10,000 juveniles would be transferred to cages at the two sites, as well as at four marinas across the Solent over the next month.

Image caption, Ben Fogle said the oysters would "change the whole dynamic of the Solent"

Former BBC Countryfile presenter Fogle said his experience of travelling the world's oceans had "opened his eyes to the scale of marine destruction".

"Restoring the native oyster to the Solent would be another step closer to turning the tide against the large-scale degradation of our oceans," he added.

"These oysters will change the whole dynamic of the Solent. They're going to improve the water quality, bring back other marine life and perhaps tourism will benefit."

Image source, Blue Marine Foundation
Image caption, Oyster fishing was banned on the Solent in 2013 when annual harvests fell from 200 to 20 tonnes

Tim Glover, of Blue Marine Foundation, said the pilot project showed the technique of suspending cages of oysters under floating pontoons "can result in healthy reproduction and low mortality".

He said the group aimed to introduce up to a million oysters to the Solent during 2017.

Image source, Blue Marine Foundation
Image caption, Cages were fitted on the pontoon at Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) during a pilot for the project

Blue Marine Foundation said restoring oyster stocks would "help to ensure a sustainable supply of oysters for harvesting in the long term".

A final report on the project is expected in 2021.

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