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Ostrea edulis. Photo credit: Bernadette Pogoda.

Science

At an international workshop, nature conservation authorities and organizations, scientists and oyster farmers have founded a European network called the Native Oyster Restoration Alliance (NORA). Their goal is to reintroduce and restore stocks of the now rare and highly endangered native European oyster.

More than 65 experts from ten European countries and the US came together for the first international oyster restoration workshop on 1st - 3rd November 2017. Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) together with the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) organized the workshop at the Landesvertretung Bremen in Berlin.

The BfN-sponsored RESTORE project to restore stocks of the European oyster has been running at the AWI since 2016.

“The founding of the network is extremely important for the restoration of this species, which is considered highly endangered throughout Europe. It allows us to develop joint restoration strategies and facilitates knowledge sharing between the individual regional projects,” explains AWI Biologist Dr. Bernadette Pogoda, who is heading the RESTORE project.

The following are some of the key points the experts agreed on in Berlin:

  • In order for restoration projects in Europe to be successful, sufficient healthy oyster spat are required. However, removing spat from existing wild beds is inadvisable since it would further reduce wild stocks. Oyster farms are therefore essential in producing suitable young oysters.
  • Restoration projects can only be successful where the environmental conditions are favorable and there are no activities that affect the seabed in the area, particularly bottom trawling or sand and gravel excavation. Adequate suitable undisturbed marine areas need to be identified and designated as restoration zones and be protected from damage.
  • The Bonamia parasite, which is harmful to European oysters, is present in many European marine regions. Only parasite-free oysters may be introduced into Bonamia-free areas.
  • The stocks and accompanying fauna will be monitored using internationally agreed-on methods.
  • The genetic diversity of the oyster stocks must be safeguarded and taken into account in breeding programs for the restoration measures.

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