Kent Wildlife Trust stemming tide of non-native oyster species

Pacific rock oyster Credit: ITV Meridian

The Kent Wildlife Trust has been touring the Sheppey coastline in an attempt to control the spread of an invasive species of oyster.

When Pacific Oysters were introduced in the sixties, it was thought the water would be too cold for them to reproduce. However there are now millions spreading, threatening the survival of native species on the Kent coast.

Now a project called Coastbusters, led by Kent Wildlife Trust, is looking to try and cull the invasive oyster.

Marine Conservation Officer Alice Morley says the non-native species become a problem when they "smother" the native species.

They were introduced to the UK and other parts of Europe through the aquaculture industry in the 1960s in hatcheries.Some have since escaped, putting their larvae in the water column which results in the species establishing itself in the wild.

James Green from the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company says: "There hasn't been any confirmed studies that the population of native oysters has been affected by the population of the rock oysters in the area. But there's increasing numbers of the Pacific rock oyster and the population of the native oyster is relatively small because of overfishing and pollution, and mainly one disease that came to the area quite a few years ago, and that coincided with the decimation of the industry as it was."

Credit: ITV Meridian

The Coastbusters project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, however the money is due to run out in March.

The trust says funding is vital for this work to continue in order to give native species, like blue mussels, the best chance of survival.

Credit: ITV Meridian
  • Watch Tony Green's report below