Ben Fogle returned to the Solent yesterday (Thursday) 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.”
The first of many thousands of oysters have been 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 4 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.”
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 Portsmouth’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.”