Did you know that our native oysters have been an important food source for centuries – the Romans even exported them to Italy!
The first report of a recognized commercial oyster fishery in Belfast Lough dates back to 1780 and although the native oyster has been considered extinct there since 1903, in the summer of 2020 live oysters were discovered for the first time since. over 100 years – proof that the environmental conditions for the establishment are good.
The charity, Ulster Wildlife Trust, hopes to establish the first native oyster nursery in Northern Ireland at Bangor Marina on Belfast Lough to support the declining population and help create a long-term carbon nature reserve to combat the climate change. So, under Pontoons F, G and H, Ulster Wildlife’s Heidi McIlvenny along with Harbor Master Kevin Baird and his staff will deploy a native oyster nursery.
Approximately 26 cages will be suspended under the pontoon walkways and will be stocked with popular Loch Ryan oysters. Loch Ryan Oyster Bed, one of the largest in Scotland, dates back to 1701 when King William 111 granted a royal charter to the Wallace family.
The native or flat oyster stays attached in one place and is a filter feeder, meaning it uses its valves to pump water, filtering out microscopic algae and small organic particles from the surrounding water. A single oyster can filter up to 200 liters of seawater per day, which can dramatically improve water quality and clarity.
Already in full swing at another marina in Conwy in Wales, over time oysters will begin to release oyster larvae into the harbor which will be caused to settle on the seabed, which will ultimately result in cleaner waters and better marine biodiversity.
Listed as a priority species under the UK’s post-2010 biodiversity framework and a feature of conservation importance for which marine conservation areas can be designated, the oyster has a six-year lifespan.
Harbor master Kevin Baird would like to involve local schools once the oysters are in place. “It is a great environmental project with many very positive benefits”. He added: “There will be no disruption of maritime traffic”.