THE Ayrshire coast could become home to billions of oysters thanks to a conservation project.

The oyster population in the Firth of Clyde is set for the boost after a zoological charity received £1,180,000 to swell native British oyster numbers.

The ‘Wild Oysters’ project will aid recovery of the native oyster populations, which will in turn see cleaner water, healthier fisheries and plentiful marine biodiversity in the Firth of Clyde. 

The funding was secured by the Zoological Society of London in collaboration with Blue Marine Foundation and British Marine.

It has been raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and awarded as part of the Dream Fund, which gives charities the opportunity to bring a dream project to life.

ZSL senior conservation programme manager, Alison Debney said: “It’s wonderful to celebrate this win for oysters on World Oyster day - they are the superheroes of our oceans. Despite their small size they’re capable of making huge changes in our marine environment.  

“Our dream is to grow a self-sustaining population of native oysters in the UK. This funding awarded by Postcode Dream Trust means we now have the potential to release nine billion native oyster larvae into the ocean creating oyster nurseries in UK waters, work with local communities to care for our oceans superheroes and connect people and wildlife.   

“Thanks to players of People's Postcode Lottery we hope to see healthy, resilient, coastal waters and make a remarkable difference to the future of wild oysters.”

Irvine Times: Oyster fieldwork.Oyster fieldwork.

Project managers will work together with local partners to restore the 20,000km2 of oyster reefs that have been lost from around the coastline of Britain.

The ZSL said that: "Across the UK wild native oysters (Ostrea edulis) have declined by over 95 per cent, with the dramatic decrease due to a combination of over-harvesting, habitat loss, pollution and disease; however healthy oyster beds are hugely productive and help a rich biodiversity of associated species to thrive. They provide important fish nursery ground habitat, supporting commercially important species such as seabass, bream and edible crabs."

The project aims to install oyster nurseries suspended under marina pontoons, to release the next generation of baby oysters to the seabed.

Irvine Times: Oyster nurseries.Oyster nurseries.

The young oysters, known as spat, will settle across the three oyster reefs created across British Estuaries including the River Conwy (Wales), Firth of Clyde (Scotland) and Tyne and Wear coastal water body (England).