THE NATIVE OYSTER PROJECT SO FAR
Following a pilot project conducted by our volunteer association CROMACH (Craignish Restoration of Coastal and Marine Habitats), in 2020, we formed the charity Seawilding and secured a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant for a five-year project to grow up to 1 million juvenile native oysters in Loch Craignish to restore the natural beds.
Our juvenile native oysters – spat - are sourced from Morecambe Bay Hatchery, and arrive weighing approximately 1 gramme. We grow them on in our nursery, a series of floating cages until they weigh approximately 12 grammes. This takes approximately 3-4 months in the summer. At this point they’re big enough to sit on the sea-bottom and survive a degree of predation from starfish and crabs.
We’ve conducted extensive baseline surveys around the Loch, searching for the best release sites which have good substrate, shelter and depth. When the oysters go back in, we broadcast them by hand into the water. So far, we have put 60,000 on the seabed, and we have another 100,000 waiting in the nursery with more to come in 2021.
It’s early days but the oysters are doing well with a high survival rate. Come the spring, we will kick-off our long-term monitoring of the release sites. Watch this space!
Meanwhile there’s lots of science and research opportunities. To this end, we have teamed up with the Scottish Association of Marine Sciences (SAMS) and the School of Aquaculture, Stirling University to help MSc students research, monitor and survey our restoration efforts.
The map shows all the protected areas around the Loch Craignish Native Oyster Restoration Project. The turquoise areas are the newly formed Argyll Hope Spot.
Loch Craignish Oyster Restoration Project