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Why Native Oysters Have Returned to Belfast Lough After a Century (Podcast)

21st January 2021
Diver Owen O'Connell examines the cultch post deployment in south Galway Bay Diver Owen O'Connell examines the cultch post deployment in south Galway Bay Credit: Cuan Beo project

“Good news everyone”, the natives have returned...” It’s not your average title to a scientific paper, but this one has reason to celebrate - hailing the return of native oysters to Belfast Lough after a century.

The paper by Bangor University researcher David Smyth and fellow scientists was published this month in the journal Regional Studies in Marine Science.

It documents how the European flat oyster Ostrea edulis has been confirmed in small numbers in Belfast Lough, and speculates on reasons why, such as shipping movements.

Native oyster spat one year old in south Galway Bay Photo: Cuan Beo projectOne-year-old native oyster spat in south Galway Bay Photo: Cuan Beo project

Afloat reported on the unexpected return of the Belfast wild oysters last month here.

Marine Institute shellfish expert Oliver Tully spoke to Wavelengths about the significance of the find, and about how it is a reminder of the former abundance of native oysters along the east coast – an important food source along with Molly Malone’s “cockles and mussels”.

Heavy fishing, mainly by British vessels, rendered the oyster beds, which were particularly healthy off the Wicklow and north Wexford coasts, extinct. There were reports of tens of millions of oysters being exported into Britain in the mid 19th century.

Native oyster on the sea bed in south Galway Photo: Cuan Beo projectNative oyster on the sea bed in south Galway Photo: Cuan Beo project

Tully says it is also a reminder of the importance of fisheries management – at a time of much uncertainty about same in the wake of Brexit.

He is involved in several native oyster restoration projects on the west coast, from Lough Swilly in Donegal down to Tralee Bay, and including the Cuan Beo project in south Galway bay.

200 tonnes of cultch getting ready to deploy200 tonnes of cultch getting ready to deploy

You can hear more about that project and the work of Cuan Beo, as explained by Tully, Noreen Cassidy and fisherman David Krause, below in the Afloat

podcast

 

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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Afloat's Wavelengths Podcast with Lorna Siggins

Weekly dispatches from the Irish coast with journalist Lorna Siggins, talking to people in the maritime sphere. Topics range from marine science and research to renewable energy, fishing, aquaculture, archaeology, history, music and more...

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