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First native oyster restoration hatchery opens in the UK

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The country’s first oyster restoration hatchery opened in the Solent, on the south coast of England. The hatchery, opened by the University of Portsmouth and Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE), will provide a million native oysters a year for a restoration project that could transform the Solent’s water quality and increase its marine biodiversity.

The native oyster is almost extinct in many areas around Europe, including in the Solent, having declined by over 90% since the 1800s due to human impacts. This new hatchery overcomes a major barrier to oyster restoration by providing a reliable source of native oysters. The hatchery is aiming to produce a million oysters in its first year alone, providing a lifeline to the Solent’s native oyster population.

The hatchery will also allow further research into ensuring that the oysters are disease resistant without any loss of genetic variation or adaptation to local environmental conditions. The facility will help to improve understanding of the ecology and biology of the native oyster and improve restoration-rearing techniques. 

“The biggest barrier to restoration of the native oyster, Ostrea edulis, is the lack of oysters, so we need to breed more oysters, but in a way that preserves genetic diversity, harnesses disease resistance, but doesn't spread disease. We looked at hatcheries that have been instrumental to Ostrea species restoration success in the USA and Australia and built on the UK's heritage in shellfish production to develop a hatchery to enable us to scale up restoration in the Solent,” said Joanne Preston, reader in Marine Ecology and Evolution at the University of Portsmouth.

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