Project to help save native Essex oyster receives funding boost
- Credit: ZSL
A conservation project to help replenish stocks of declining oyster populations has received a major funding boost.
The marine restoration scheme is among 15 nature projects to receive a share of £7.4 million in National Lottery funding.
The Essex Native Oyster Restoration Initiative (ENORI) aims to create self-sustaining populations of native oysters in the Blackwater, Roach, Crouch and Colne Estuaries Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ).
The £225,100 grant will go towards creating a 'mother oyster' sanctuary for the translocation of mature oysters to spawn and settle on the improved seabed substrate.
A scheme to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths and the Dedham Vale Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), including a public photography project to capture the changing landscape, will also receive £129,000.
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ENORI volunteers will lead a shell recycling scheme with local businesses - with the shells used to build habitat - and volunteer divers will help monitor progress.
Youngsters with special educational needs and disabilities will get involved in exploring how oysters became part of our cultural heritage.
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Recycled shells from oysters bred in Mersea, and sold in Borough Market and West Mersea, are also being laid on the bed of the Thames Estuary to provide a surface for young oysters to grow.
Native oyster beds are thought to among the most threatened marine habitats in Europe, declining 95% in population over the last 200 years.
Chaired by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), ENORI aims to provide ecosystem services, sustainable fisheries and increased biodiversity.
ZSL senior conservation programme manager, Alison Debney said: "Our work across this conservation project will help kick start a self-sustaining population of native oysters and enable us to work towards a world where wildlife thrives.
"The funding will also support ZSL's work with young people with special educational needs and disabilities, who will get involved in exploring the marine environment by enjoying boat trips to the oyster sanctuary to bring them closer to nature."
Drew Bennellick, from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said funding was creating opportunities for people to take action for species under threat.