New residents welcomed to Belfast Harbour as part of water quality initiative

There's something in the water in Belfast... but it's not what you might expect.

An oyster nursery has been installed in Belfast Harbour in a bid to improve water quality and boost marine life.

The nursery at City Quays is thought to be the first of its kind to be introduced to a commercial shipping channel in Northern Ireland.

It will be home to around 600 native oysters, which prior to installation were cleaned, measured and screened for disease by a group of volunteers, including Ulster Wildlife representatives and employees of Belfast Harbour.

Dr Rachel Millar, Ulster Wildlife, said: "We get the oysters out of the cages and then we take our morphometrics - so we will take the length, the breadth and we also weight them and it's just to see how they're growing in this environment.

"They've come over from Lough Ryan in Scotland and they've been put in here over a month."

So, how does it work?

Dr David Smyth of Ulster Wildlife explained: "The oyster itself it's a fantastic vehicle for water quality. It can filter over 200 litres of water a day. It also is really good at attracting other species to settle on the shell, so it increases biodiversity and it improves the marine environment in and around its locale."

For over a century it was thought that native oysters in Northern Ireland were extinct, but a number of oyster restoration initiatives have been launched by Ulster Wildlife in recent years, with similar nurseries being installed in Bangor and Glenarm Marina with great success.

Simon Gibson, Belfast Harbour, said the move is also part of a current drive to restore native oysters within Belfast Lough.

“The project is an exciting step in Belfast Harbour’s journey to achieving our sustainability ambitions around improving water quality and promoting marine biodiversity, and becoming a world-leading green port,” he added.

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