6 June 2012
A one year trial is set to start on Friday (8 June 2012) using a team of local volunteers to reduce the Pacific oyster population in Thanet.
The Pacific oyster is a non-native species which have spread along the coast. They were discovered during a survey of the North East Kent European Marine Sites by Kent Wildlife Trust in 2007 in much higher numbers than expected. Since 2007 Natural England has funded detailed monitoring along the Thanet Coast.
Traditionally, Pacific oysters have been grown in oyster farms around the country under license. The ability to reproduce in the wild has always been prevented due to climate conditions but now our waters are warmer the Pacific oyster is thriving around the Thanet Coast.
North East Kent’s undersea wildlife is rich and varied and its marine sites are of national and international importance, with a range of special legal designations protecting these native species and habitats. The North East Kent European Marine Sites include; Thanet Coast Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Thanet Coast and Sandwich Bay Special Protection Area (SPA) and RAMSAR site, Sandwich Bay Special Area of Conservation and two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which are a national designation.
Once the Pacific oyster establishes a large enough population in the wild it may out-compete and even displace native species such as blue mussels. It also has the potential to smother or crowd-out other marine life and alter the natural balance of habitats.
Willie McKnight, Project Coordinator working for Natural England, said: “We are targeting selected sections along the coast which were identified by the monitoring data to remove the oysters. We have a group of specially trained local volunteers who will remove the oysters safely. It is important that this isn’t attempted by those who are not trained as some of the Pacific oysters attach themselves to Kent’s protected chalk reef and therefore removal has to be done with great care. We are so grateful to have such willing volunteers - it is a great step in long term management of a non-native species.”
Local volunteers will be out on the coast from Friday (8 June) having completed their training and acquired the tools and personal safety equipment needed. There will be 10 events throughout the trial running from June 2012 until June 2013.
This trial will provide data to check if it is possible to slow the progress of this invasive species. The trial, and assessment of the results, is part of a wider project to look at non-native species in north east Kent by Natural England. It is hoped that the trial will show whether long term management of the Pacific oyster is possible and how this can improve the overall condition of the European marine sites.
This trial is a joint partnership between Natural England and Thanet District Council. – Ends –