120,000 oysters to be released to clean up polluted sea loch

Scotland’s first community oyster restoration project will soon have released 120,000 oysters into Loch Craignish in Argyll in a bid to filter out pollutants.

Within five years the group wants to have grown and spread one million of them. 

Oysters are a vital element to marine ecosystems as they filter pollutants from the sea -  and act as an important habitat site for various marine wildlife. 

However native oyster populations have declined by 95% since the 1800s, which according to The Wild Oyster Project - a partnership between the Zoological Society of London, the Blue Marine Foundation and British Marine - is due to human activity.

The project at Loch Craignish, funded by conservation charity Sea-Changers and supported by Scottish Natural Heritage, is placing young oysters on the seabed where it’s hoped they will spawn, settle and create an oyster reef.

Speaking to Channel 4, Will Goudy, from community group Craignish Restoration of Marine and Coast Habitat  (CROMACH) said: “This all has to happen on a massive scale, this has to be national for it to make an actual difference. 

“That’s one of our main aims, figure it out for ourselves to start with and then push it out as far as we possibly can to get other communities involved.”

CROMACH was established to give local people a voice in marine management. According to its website, it aims to encourage sustainable use of local waters for recreation, fishing and other marine activities whilst protecting and allowing recovery of biodiversity and natural processes.

Commenting on the UK government’s joint international commitments made yesterday to protect at least 30% of the world’s ocean by 2030, Gough added: “Provided that they’re meaningful, that they’re managed properly and policed well, it’s absolutely critical. But we’ll have to just wait and see on that one I think.”

CROMACH is not the only project in the Argyll region focused on restoring oyster numbers. 

In May, 1,300 native oysters were returned to waters in the nearby Firth of Clyde as part of The Wild Oysters Project.

The project has created nurseries filled with oysters to be suspended underneath marina pontoons in Largs Yacht Haven and Fairlie Quay Marina. 

In a release from ZSL, it said the nurseries create a micro habitat where “much like a maternity ward” the oysters can reproduce. 

Yesterday DEFRA pledged to create a raft of highly protected marine areas (HPMAs) in which all damaging activities would be banned by 2022. 

The sites for the HPMAs are not yet known, with the locations to be identified by Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee after a formal consultation set to launch next year.

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