New Glenarm nursery set to release 800 million oysters to boost biodiversity
Cliodhna Matthews and Rory Tweed from Seaview Primary School join Dr. Dave Wall, Senior Marine Conservation Officer with Ulster Wildlife at the launch of the new native oyster nursery at Glenarm Marina.
Native oysters are set to flourish once more along the Glenarm coast with the creation of a new native oyster nursery at Glenarm Marina.
The restoration initiative, led by Ulster Wildlife, could see up to 800 million oyster larvae released into surrounding waters every year, allowing these ocean superheroes to bounce back from extinction – boosting biodiversity and reducing water pollution levels.
Native oysters (Ostrea edulis) were once abundant along the Glenarm coast up until the mid-1800s when overfishing, disease, invasive species and pollution decimated the local population. Evidence of their shells can still be seen today along the shoreline.
Dr Dave Wall pictured with Robert Walsh from Ulster Wildlife shows pupils from Seaview Integrated Primary School how to clean and measure the native oysters at the new Glenarm nursery, managed by the conservation charity.
Now over 800 mature native oysters, sourced under licence from Loch Ryan in Scotland, are being suspended in 30 purpose-built cages over the edges of the marina’s pontoons to help revive the species.
The oysters were screened for disease and cleaned on arrival before being installed.
Dr David Smyth, Senior Conservation Officer with Ulster Wildlife, said:
“Despite their small size and insignificant appearance, oysters can bring huge benefits to our marine environment. Already, they have started to filter and clean 162,000 litres of seawater at Glenarm per day, equivalent to 810 bathtubs. And, this summer, they will reproduce, releasing the next generation of oysters onto the seabed to form oyster reefs, providing nursery grounds for fish and shelter for marine creatures.
"This is a win-win for nature: restoring oysters creates healthier and more resilient seas and their reefs store carbon – crucial if we are to tackle the nature and climate crisis.”
Mid-East Antrim Borough Council, which manages the marina, has welcomed the nursery.
Mayor, Alderman Noel Williams, said:
“We are thrilled to be playing our part in restoring this endangered native species. Nestled at the bottom of the Glens of Antrim, Glenarm Marina is the perfect spot to help revive native oysters.
"As well as increasing water clarity and quality, the project will also deliver enhanced biodiversity and provide rich cultural value to the area. I look forward to seeing this initiative grow and thrive over the next few years.”
Ulster Wildlife is appealing for volunteers in the local area to help monitor the oysters as they settle into their new home. This involves conducting regular health checks to assess growth rates and surveying wildlife around the cages.
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This is the charity’s second native oyster nursery. Northern Ireland’s first native oyster nursery was opened in 2022 at Bangor Marina.
Ulster Wildlife staff, volunteers and trustees were joined by partners and funders at the launch of the new native oyster nursery, including Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, which manage the marina, and representatives from DAERA and Wilson Resources who are supporting the restoration initiative.
The Glenarm oyster nursery is funded by the DAERA Blue Carbon Fund and supported by Wilson Resources.
Find out more at ulsterwildlife.org/native-oysters