Pioneering conservation project launched to boost Wales' dwindling oyster population

The project is the first of its kind in Wales Credit: Natural Resources Wales

A conservation project has started to boost the number of native oysters found on the Welsh coastline.

Once widely found in our seas, the population has dwindled over the last century because of over-exploitation and changes in water quality.

Oysters are a vitally important species to the marine ecosystem. They filter and clean water providing essential habitats for fish, crustaceans and other species.

They also play an important role in helping fight climate change by locking away carbon.

25,000 juvenile oysters have been released in Milford Haven Credit: Natural Resources Wales

Working with a team of marine scientists and agriculture experts, National Resources Wales have introduced young oysters and shell material in a series of historic oyster grounds.

So far, the team have introduced 25,000 juvenile oysters into the estuary near Milford Haven. They will be closely monitored to check they are thriving and reproducing.

Thousands of oysters have so far been released Credit: Natural Resources Wales

The project is one of the first of its kind in Wales which Project Manager Ben Wray hopes will be a success.

He said: “Restoring native oysters and associated habitat in Wales is extremely important. It improves the condition of the surrounding area and it is great for the wider environment which benefits people too. We are very hopeful that the project will be a success – the native oyster is a threatened and declining species. And it’s a main priority for biodiversity restoration in Wales.

“We are using current and former oyster habitats in the Milford Haven waterway to test if it is possible to introduce native oysters to boost the population. So far, we have introduced around 25,000 juvenile oysters in the estuary and we will monitor how they progress. If the project is successful, oysters could be introduced on a larger scale and across additional sites”.