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Almost a quarter of a million native oysters have now been introduced to Loch Craignish following a weekend of community volunteering.
On Sunday October 10 a community working party released 20,000 oysters on to the seabed at Craignish as part of a five-year project run by the charity Seawilding, which aims to to reintroduce one million native oysters.
The protected species was once prevalent in most Scottish sea lochs, but predation, disease and bottom trawling have destroyed most populations.
It is now recognised that native oyster beds are an important part of their local marine eco-system.
Each oyster can filtrate and clean up to 200 litres of water a day and the native oyster reefs enhance biodiversity by becoming fish spawning grounds and nurseries.
Earlier this year the charity Seawilding secured a National Lottery heritage fund grant to grow young native oysters over a five-year period in floating baskets on the loch.
When they are semi-mature, the oysters will be moved to trial seabed sites around Loch Craignish where it is hoped they will become a self-sustaining population.
Project Coordinator Danny Renton, said: ‘This is a pioneering project driven by the Craignish community.
‘Loch Craignish was once a rich environment for native oysters, and scallops in particular; but bottom trawling since the 1980s has destroyed much of the seabed. Our community wants to reverse that.
‘We hear a lot about rewilding, but there’s little action been taken so far with restoration of marine habitats – so what we are doing at Loch Craignish is an exciting opportunity to show that marine rewilding and reintroduction of priority marine species is possible.’
Each oyster hoister houses 30 mature oysters which will help to clean up the marina water as well as releasing spat, adding to the wider restoration effort in the loch.
The hoisters are sponsored by members of the community and boat owners and the plan is to suspend around 30 cages by the end of the year.
The project is working alongside the Scottish Association for Marine Science and the Department of Aquaculture from Stirling University to enable 20 marine science students to monitor, survey and research the restoration efforts over the next five years.