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Displaying items by tag: oysters

Hundreds of native oysters have returned to Belfast Lough as part of efforts to bring the ‘ocean superheroes’ back from the brink of extinction.

The ambitious aquaculture restoration project, officially launched on Friday (20 May) by Ulster Wildlife to mark Endangered Species Day, sees approximately 700 mature oysters suspended in cages under the pontoons of Bangor Marina.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, this creates the first native oyster (Ostrea edulis) nursery of its kind on the island of Ireland.

As sea temperatures warm over the coming months, the 24 nursery cages will generate millions of oyster larvae which will settle on the seabed, helping the native oyster population recover while also boosting biodiversity and improving water quality in the lough.

Belfast Lough once supported a prolific native oyster fishery. However, overfishing, habitat loss, disease, pollution and invasive introduced species contributed to the population becoming extinct and the fishery closing in 1903.

Since then, 100 years of surveys failed to document one living specimen, until 2020 when researchers from Bangor University and Queen’s University Belfast discovered 42 live oysters at six sites around the lough.

Heidi McIlvenny, marine conservation manager at Ulster Wildlife and who is leading the project, says: “We are still unsure how or why native oysters returned to Belfast Lough, but it indicates that the environmental conditions are right for them to establish here again. But, if they are to bounce back, they need our help.

“The biggest barrier to the recovery of the native oyster is a low number of mature reproducing oysters. The nurseries we have established at Bangor Marina are full of mature oysters that will act as larval pumps, increasing the number of oysters in the Lough and helping to restore this incredible ocean superhero for years to come.”

Boosting the lough’s fragile oyster population will also bring important benefits for other marine life, Heidi says.

“A single oyster can filter up to 200 litres of seawater, equivalent to a bathtub, per day, significantly improving water quality and reducing pollution levels. The larvae once established will also create healthy native oyster reefs in the lough, providing shelter and food for an abundance of marine wildlife, including commercially fished species, along with potential carbon storage.”

Special permissions were granted to relocate the shellfish from Loch Ryan in Scotland. They were screened for disease and cleaned on arrival before being installed in the nurseries. 

Volunteers will conduct ‘health checks’ every week to ensure the oysters are thriving in their new homes. Monthly biodiversity surveys will also track changes in marine life in and around the nurseries, which form their own unique micro-habitat.

Kevin Baird, harbour master at Bangor Marina, says: “We are delighted to be supporting the recovery of our most threatened marine species.

“Housing the oyster nurseries under the pontoons is an innovative use of the space we have available and is a great opportunity for the marina to become an outdoor classroom, where people of all ages can get hands-on with marine conservation in an urban environment.”

The oyster restoration project is funded by the DAERA Challenge Fund. Find out more at ulsterwildlife.org/native-oysters

Published in Aquaculture

Interested parties are now invited to apply for a licence to fish the 2022/2023 native oyster fishery on Lough Foyle.

Applicants will be required to submit a completed application via post, which must be received on or before Friday 29 July.

It is the responsibility of the applicant to provide proof of postage in the event of a late application delivery or a missing application.

At this stage the Loughs Agency asks that only completed application forms are sent. Please do not send additional documents or payment.

Loughs Agency offices are currently closed but application forms are available for download.

The licence fee is £150 or €166 and fees payable on receipt of licence.

No late applications will be accepted without proof of postage within the stated application timeframe.

Send applications to the following address:

Oyster Licence Applications
Loughs Agency
22 Victoria Road
Derry ~ Londonderry
BT47 2AB
Northern Ireland

Telephone opening hours 9am to 5pm Monday-Friday
Tel: +44 (0) 28 71 342100
Fax: +44 (0) 28 71 342720

Published in Fishing

There are many reasons to love oysters, and now an NUI Galway scientist has suggested another one.

Apart from its nutritional benefits, the shellfish also provides a cost-effective solution to the impacts of climate change.

Natural reefs built from oysters are preferential to seawalls constructed as a flood and coastal erosion defence, according to research led by NUI Galway (NUIG) economist Prof Stephen Hynes.

Such natural reefs are not only cheaper to construct, but they have the added benefit of creating new habitats for marine life, Prof Hynes, who is director of the NUIG Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit, says.

Author Prof Stephen HynesAuthor Prof Stephen Hynes

“Nature-based solutions” to climate change are central to the European Green Deal, his research paper published in the science journal Ecological Economics notes.

Galway has long celebrated the oyster, and a coastal walk in Galway Bay was selected as a template for the study.

The coastal trail to Rinville point is three kilometres from Oranmore village in south Galway. As it lies at sea level, it is exposed to coastal flooding.

The research examined its recreational value and analysed two options for protecting it – the “hard engineering” rock armour solution versus constructing a natural reef from oysters cultivated locally.

Rinville bay was once nucleus for abundance of native oyster, dating from prehistoric times, but productive reefs have been overharvested to the extent that remaining stock is “close to functional extinction”.

However, community-based organisation, Cuan Beo, has been working with the Marine Institute on restoring the native oyster and the first effort to rebuild several oyster reefs began in late 2020.

Cuan Beo used 200 tonnes of empty Pacific oyster shells covering a 50-metre radius and one metre in height from the seabed, which was then seeded with native oyster stock.

Although these structures are not close enough to the point to protect the walk, a similar natural protective reef could be created if given legislative approval, Cuan Beo spokesman Diarmuid Kelly confirmed.

Natural oysters Natural oysters 

The oyster “bar” would be covered by sea most of the time, except at low tide, and would involve sowing seed oysters on top of empty oyster shell substrate

Prof Hynes’s study found that both protection options resulted in a positive net benefit over a 20-year time horizon.

However, the study found the nature-based solution had a benefit-cost ratio multiple times larger than the “grey infrastructure” seawall alternative.

Artificial oyster reefs have been piloted along the US Gulf Coast to protect and restore shoreline habitat and create living oyster beds, Prof Hynes notes.

The results of the research “suggest a compelling case for embedding nature-based solutions in climate adaption and flood management planning for low lying coastal areas where recreational resources are under threat”, his paper says.

“The fact that oyster reefs can also adapt to sea-level rise with vertical growth rates that are faster than the expected rate of sea-level rise also makes them a good nature-based solution,” he adds.

The full paper is here

Published in Marine Science
Tagged under

“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

 

Published in Wavelength Podcast
Tagged under

Marine scientists have been baffled by the unexpected return of wild oysters to Belfast Loughas the Guardian reports.

The threatened shellfish species was last recorded in the Northern Ireland lough in the late 1800s before overfishing destroyed the native population.

However, a chance photograph of a specimen led to a full survey the past summer which discovered more than 40 European flat oysters dotted around the inlet.

And it’s believed that some of these oysters could be resident in the lough for more than 10 years.

But the question remains as to how the species was reintroduced after all this time.

One possible explanation is that reduced shoreline sediment from activity at Belfast’s port created the optimum conditions for young oysters swept in from the Irish Sea to grow.

The Guardian has more on the story HERE.

Published in Belfast Lough
Tagged under

A Polish man says he has quite literally turned oyster farming on its head - by inventing a revolutionary device that allows for three times more oysters within the same area of seabed.

Grzegorz Skawiński developed the product over two years which uniquely has a rotating cage system.

Oyster sacks are placed one above the other, rather than traditional farming of side by side on trestles, saving space on the seabed and increasing production.

And when the device rotates, it allows the oysters to move freely, aiding growth.

Normally each oyster bag is turned by hand – five in a row on a trestle. Grzegorz’s system allows 16 to be turned in one rotation.

The project currently in prototype stage has other benefits.

Along with a high-quality oyster in terms of shape and meat, the device can farm in deeper waters, previously inaccessible.

And because of the rotating system, back pain is relieved, common in the industry.

Sea pollution is also eliminated as rubber bands that hold bags in place on a trestle, are not required on the device.

He developed the product having worked in oyster farming in Co. Waterford for eight years.

He saw the potential of a new product to help with ease of farming and plastic pollution, but vitally production levels and increased profits.

Grzegorz said: “When you work with oysters, you understand intimately how farming methods work, and importantly for me, how they can be improved.

"The idea of rotation was born while working on the project. The main goal of the project was to place as many oysters as possible on the seabed surface."

Grzegorz first started on the project in 2017 and created the device for testing and research purposes.

It’s currently patented in Ireland, along with patents expected in the UK and France.

Grzegorz is now keen to move on with the next phase of the business – either to sell the licensed patent or work with a manufacturer to market the product globally.

Published in Aquaculture
Tagged under

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, in association with IFA Aquaculture, is hosting a two-day seminar today (Thursday 13th February 2020) for members of Ireland’s vibrant oyster farming sector, valued at €43million according to the latest (2018) Business of Seafood report. The sold-out event, taking place in Carlingford, Co Louth, has attracted participants from more than 85% of businesses in the industry.

Speaking at the opening of the workshop, BIM’s chief executive, Jim O’Toole said, “The demand for Irish oysters continues to increase in Ireland and overseas. Consumers in Europe and Asia are actively seeking out Irish oysters and cite the unique characteristics and diversity in taste between brands. This strong and growing reputation has translated into strong prices for Irish oysters and excellence in food safety management and stringent attention to quality control among industry members accounts for much of these successes. BIM continues to support and work closely with the sector. It is a sector that has enormous potential to continue in its upwards growth trajectory and to further benefit those living and working in coastal communities throughout Ireland.”

The sector enjoyed a positive year in 2018, according to the BIM Business of Seafood report, producing an all-time high of 10,300 tonnes of oysters and employing 1,300 people nationwide. The seminar is taking place in an area renowned for its quality oyster production and will feature presentations from a host of experts on practical topics of immediate interest to the Irish sector.

Despite recent health and socio-economic challenges presented by the Asian market that have affected exports Irish oyster producers remain at the forefront of the luxury offering, with the sector showing continued investment in packaging and branding, focusing on Irish oyster’s superior quality. The latest figures show nearly 30% of Irish oysters are now packed and branded in Ireland prior to export, adding extra value to the sector. While France remains our largest export market at 74% of total export volume in 2018, we are continuing to diversify into alternative European markets such as the Netherlands and Belgium (2019 saw a 31% increase in exports to the Netherlands).

The morning session will include short ‘flash’ presentations from IFA Aquaculture on where we are as an industry, the latest BIM initiatives which aim to further promote sustainability, innovation and competitiveness in the Oyster Sector as well as some of the more innovative approaches from industry to further develop their businesses.

The second part of the morning session will look at some of the results from BIM’s Bluefish Climate Change project, funded by the Ireland Wales Programme. There will be an overview of our current trade position and opportunities for further expansion. We will also be joined by Bord Bia to highlight oyster promotional events in Europe throughout 2020 and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland to take us through some of the possible implications of Brexit in terms of food safety regulations.

Speakers from the Marine Institute, the SFPA and other industry experts will focus the afternoon session on topics such as water quality biosecurity, biotoxins and other environmental factors which significantly affect both oyster production and trade

The final aspect of the workshop will be an informed panel discussion, based on the day's presentations and addressing questions posed by workshop attendees.

Published in Fishing
Tagged under

The latest research and knowledge on oyster diseases was presented at a meeting on Pacific oyster health held recently by the Marine Institute’s Fish Health Unit.

The event attracted more than 80 participants from Ireland’s oyster farming industry, as well as representatives from Ireland’s seafood development agency Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

Presentations focused on mortality, disease management and current national and international research in oyster health.

Oyster mortalities in recent years in Ireland have been mainly associated with either Ostreid herpes virus-1 μVar (OsHV-1 μVar) infection or the bacterium Vibrio aestuarianus. Both diseases cause significant oyster mortality events and an economic loss to oyster farmers and producers.

Researchers from the Marine Institute and University College Cork presented the major findings from the REPOSUS project, funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s FIRM programme.

The three-year REPOSUS project focused on reducing the impact of pathogens associated with mortalities in Pacific oysters. This included results from sentinel trials in disease impacted bays, molecular and pathogenicity characterisation studies on isolates of OsHV-1 and rache and studies on environmental parameters which influence mortality.

French institute IFREMER also presented the latest results from the VIVALDI project (Preventing and Migrating Farmed Bivalve Diseases) funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

VIVALDI combines European research resources to better understand shellfish diseases and improve the sustainability and competitiveness of the European shellfish industry. The Marine Institute is one of 21 partners involved in this research project.

Industry representatives from Ireland also shared their experience of managing losses in shellfish production due to oyster disease and mortality on their sites.

This feedback, along with research presented, will be used to update the current best practice guide for disease control and management in Ireland's oyster industry.

Published in Marine Science

#Oysters - Unauthorised oysters farms have exploded in number on Lough Foyle amid a continued dispute over its ownership, as the Belfast Telegraph reports.

The estuary between the counties of Donegal and Derry remains a point of contention as Brexit looms, with both the UK and Irish governments claiming dominion over its waters.

As a result, there has been a proliferation of unregulated oyster farming that could be worth £20 million or €22.89 million each year, according to the Loughs Agency.

The Belfast Telegraph has more on this story HERE.

Published in Fishing
Tagged under

On Tuesday 5th June 2018, a man was convicted by Judge Mary Fahy at Galway District Court for being in possession of 1,425 undersized native oysters (Ostrea edulis), contrary to Bye-Law 628 of 1982.

Patrick Cormican, with an address at Newline, Maree, County Galway, pleaded guilty to a single charge of being in possession of the undersize native oysters when apprehended by Fisheries Officers at approximately 1pm on 7th December 2017, at Blackweir, County Galway.

Solicitor Dioraí Ford, representing Inland Fisheries Ireland, outlined to the court that Fisheries Officers observed Mr. Cormican loading bags of oysters into a tractor-trailer at Blackweir on that date. The officers were aware that these bags contained undersized oysters. Mr. Cormican is a licenced oyster fisherman and on the day in question had approximately 5,000 oysters, of which 1,425 were undersized. Officers spent over an hour and a half measuring and counting the oysters.

The court heard that Mr. Cormican was co-operative on the day in question and had a previous conviction in relation to oysters dating from 1991. Judge Fahy commented on how serious a matter this was, particularly with the local connection with the world famous Clarinbrige Oyster. Mr Ford outlined that the Fisheries Officers involved in the case had never seen such an amount of undersized oysters before while carrying out an inspection of this type.

Judge Fahy convicted Mr. Cormican and imposed a fine of €750. Costs of €800 were also awarded against Mr. Cormican.

Oysters in Ireland

There are two species of oysters commonly eaten in Ireland – the native oyster (Ostrea edulis) and the non-native Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas). The native oyster grows wild and is typically caught by licensed dredging, while the Pacific oyster is most commonly farmed on trestles and harvested mechanically.

Native oyster stocks are under threat and sustainable fishing requires adherence to size limits, in order to allow oysters to grow large enough to breed before harvesting. The minimum legal size is 76mm. Inland Fisheries Ireland is charged with protection of oysters, and conducts regular inshore patrols to check for compliance. Sales outlets such as fishmongers and restaurants should be familiar with the legal requirements and refuse to accept undersize oysters.

Published in Fishing
Tagged under
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