Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Solent annual oyster festival plans revealed

Native flat oyster Image copyright Blue Marine Foundation
Image caption The project to restore the native oyster population in the Solent is being led by Blue Marine Foundation

Plans for an annual oyster festival have been revealed by a consortium working to restore oyster fishing in Hampshire.

The practice was banned in 2013 when annual harvests fell from 200 to 20 tonnes.

The project is being led by Blue Marine Foundation which has also announced plans to transfer 10 million juvenile oysters to the Solent next year.

Olympic champion Sir Ben Ainslie and his racing team are supporting the bid.

Image copyright Blue Marine Foundation
Image caption Oyster fishing was banned on the Solent in 2013 when annual harvests fell from 200 to 20 tonnes

A series of cages containing adult oysters have already been installed at the team's Portsmouth base.

Blue Marine Foundation, which plans to run its first oyster festival next year, said the working group, in partnership with Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR), MDL Marinas and Portsmouth University, was suspending cages beneath mooring pontoons in seven marinas.

The programme will then be extended to other marinas across the Solent over the next five years.

Image copyright Blue Marine Foundation
Image caption Cages have been fitted on the pontoon at Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) where the team is building its yacht in a bid to win the prestigious race in 2017

Blue Marine Foundation said the proposed restoration programme differed "fundamentally" from previous initiatives to enhance oyster stocks in the Solent because "the volume of brood and juvenile oysters to be introduced is significant".

It added it would also protect the "broodstock" against fishing in a bid to ensure its resilience.

Tim Glover, from the foundation, said the restoration of the native oyster population was a "win-win" situation.

"It will improve the economy, the fishing community, the local community, and the water quality of the Solent which is important for tourism - so it's a real plus if we can succeed in restoring it," he added.

A final report on the project is expected in 2021.

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