Students Staff

09 August 2016

Return of the Colchester native oyster

oysterman at work

More than 25,000 mature native oysters have been reintroduced to an Essex estuary in a project involving the University of Essex.

The event at was organised by the Essex Native Oyster Restoration Initiative (ENORI) - a coalition between the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), oystermen and conservationists - in an attempt to restore a nationally important breeding population that once supported hundreds of fishermen.

The project is a significant step towards the restoration of Britain’s native oyster beds. Populations of the European native, or Colchester oyster, are estimated to have been reduced by more than 95 per cent due to historic over-harvesting, disease, competition from invasive species and predators.

Oyster beds used to be an important structural and ecological component of Britain’s bays and estuaries, fuelling waterside economies for centuries and forming a ubiquitous part of our coastal culture.

Essex Wildlife Trust staff, with the support of 30 volunteers including staff from the University of Essex, individually marked 2,500 of the oysters so they can track their progress, before they were re-laid in the Blackwater, Crouch, Roach and Colne Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ).

The area was designated by the government three years ago, following survey work by Essex Wildlife Trust, the Blackwater Oysterman’s Association and the University of Essex, with the conservation objective to recover the native oyster and native oyster beds.

University of Essex PhD student and Essex Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas Co-ordinator, Sarah Allison, said: “The native oyster is one of the UK’s rarest and most precious marine animals. Intrinsically linked to Essex, any loss of this iconic species would be felt far and wide, so it is great to be working on this ground-breaking project, which will hopefully begin the reversal of the oyster’s decline, with so many different partners.”

ENORI is a joint venture between ZSL, the Essex Wildlife Trust, Blackwater Oysterman’s Association, Blue Marine Foundation, Cambridge University, The Nature Conservancy, River Roach Oyster Company, Colchester Oyster Fishery, CEFAS, Natural England, the Environment Agency, and the Kent and Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (KEIFCA).

...more news releases