Councillors to consider Ulster Wildlife proposal for ‘Oyster Nursery’ at Glenarm
A request from Ulster Wildlife Trust to develop an Oyster Nursery at Glenarm Marina is set to be considered this incoming week councillors of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council's (MEABC) Direct Services Committee.
The initial concept of the native oyster projects is a collaboration between the Zoological Society of London, British Marine and the Blue Marine Foundation.
A report to the council committee reveals that one oyster boasts an ability to filter eight litres of water an hour, with the initiative designed to naturally improve water quality at marinas while also helping to restore a threatened native species.
In past years the native oyster suffered from over fishing and disease and is listed as a species for conservation and restoration by the UK Governments Biodiversity Action Group and the European equivalents.
Local overfishing has been evidenced with of a prolific oyster in the area of Larne Lough operating between the years 1800 and 1840. The oysters were prized for their size and weight. In Belfast Lough over 200 men were employed in hauling in over 60,000 tonnes of oysters per year between between 1780 and 1830. Strangford Lough had around 50 boats fishing the waters and landing 40,000 tonnes per year between 1700 and 1850.
All oyster fisheries in Northern Ireland were considered extinct in 1903.
There are currently 16 restoration projects in the UK, seven of which use a cage nursery system and there is currently one installed at Bangor Marina.
If given approval by council, the project at Glenarm Marina on the East Antrim coast will become the second nursery in Northern Ireland. The concept would see oysters placed in cages and bags, which will hang below the marina pontoons and will not be visible from above the water.
The Ulster Wildlife Trust is hoping to receive an aqua culture license from DAERA and procure the infrastructure and native oysters for the programme from Loch Ryan in Scotland.
It is anticipated, will be a four-year license and will be installed in Autumn 2023.
The wildlife and environmental project will provide a number of opportunities for volunteers to become involved in ongoing monitoring various aspects within the harbour and nursery, as well creating an educational programme for local schools.
As well increasing water clarity and quality, the project will deliver enhanced biodiversity ( a mature oyster can accommodate over 80 different species), and provide cultural value to the area with the rich history of oyster fisheries being revived within Northern Ireland's coastal communities.