Oyster 'baby boom' in Lymington River thanks to environmental project by Blue Marine Foundation and Wightlink
SCIENTISTS have hailed an oyster "baby boom" in Lymington River after millions of larvae were released as part of an environmental project.
A colony of 300 oysters was introduced last summer under the initiative, supported by ferry company Wightlink, and led by charity the Blue Marine Foundation, which aims to restore the world's oceans by tackling overfishing.
While only a fraction of the 120-million larvae will go on to reach adulthood, the natural cycle of the colony nevertheless plays an important part in supporting the nearby ecosystem.
When the scheme was first announced in 2016 there were hopes to boost Lymington's economy by eventually making it the "oyster capital of the Solent".
Dr Luke Helmer, restoration science officer at the Blue Marine Foundation, said: “Oyster reefs are important as they filter the water, reducing the impacts of excess nitrogen, stabilise sediment, enhance fish production and also provide habitats for hundreds of species.
“Tragically, reefs have declined by 95% around the UK’s coastline and their critical inputs have been lost from the environment.
"In order to increase the number of breeding oysters within the Solent, we have been working with Wightlink and other partners to create high density populations which release millions of larvae.
“The new colonies, suspended in nurseries underneath pontoons, have been shown to provide a refuge for other marine life. Up to 130 different species having been found living within the colonies so far, including critically endangered European eel, juvenile spiny seahorse and sea bass.”
The project is also part of Wightlink’s green initiative, aimed at reducing its carbon footprint and operating in harmony with the Solent’s marine environment.
Chief executive Keith Greenfield said: “As we cross the Solent almost 1,000 times a week, we want to make a real contribution to enhancing the environment beneath the waves.
"We are fortunate to be operating in an area that has a wealth of scientific know-how to help us to do that. These experts are helping us to make sure what we do really does have a positive impact on the Solent’s diverse ecology.”
So far Blue Marine has returned 69,000 oysters to the Solent across 12 sites.