Globally, an estimated 85% of oyster beds and oyster reef habitats have been lost, making them among the most imperilled marine habitats in the world. 

The Native Oyster (Ostrea edulis) Restoration Ecology project has created a model for restoration of this key habitat, by relaying millions of oysters into the Solent – the strait that separates the Isle of Wight from mainland England. 

In order to increase the number of breeding oysters within the Solent,  mature “brood stock” oysters have been placed at high densities in cages, hung in the water beneath pontoons, facilitating the release of millions of larvae into the Solent.

The cages have been shown to provide a refuge for other marine life, with 97 different species having been found living within the cages so far, including critically endangered European eels, juvenile spiny seahorse and sea bass. 

To promote natural recruitment and re-establish wild oyster beds, protected seabed sites are being re-seeded with juvenile oysters. These sanctuary sites will be created on a large scale in areas closed to commercial fishing and will be allowed to flourish and develop. 

Project members at the University of Portsmouth

Image of Dr Joanne Preston

Media ready expert

Dr Joanne Preston

  • Job Title Reader in Marine Ecology & Evolution
  • Email Address
  • Department School of Biological Sciences
  • Faculty Faculty of Science and Health
  • PhD Supervisor PhD Supervisor
Image of Professor Gordon Watson

Professor Gordon Watson

  • Job Title Reader in Marine Zoology
  • Email Address
  • Department School of Biological Sciences
  • Faculty Faculty of Science and Health
  • PhD Supervisor PhD Supervisor

About the Principle Investigator, Dr Joanne Preston

Dr Joanne Preston is the principal investigator (PI) on the Native Oyster project, and a Marine Biologist based at our Institute of Marine Sciences, where she leads a research group on the restoration ecology of marine coastal habitats.

She founded the UK/Ireland Native Oyster Network in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London to catalyse a national approach and scale of oyster habitat restoration and facilitate best practice in establishing and monitoring  native oyster restoration projects. 

Dr Preston provides scientific leadership for the Solent Oyster Restoration Project in collaboration with Blue Marine Foundation and is an Advisory board member for the European Native Oyster Restoration Alliance. Her research is focused on understanding the biodiversity,  function, connectivity and value of marine coastal habitats, but she is a keen advocate of effective science communication to support changes in policy and sustainable use and management of marine resources.

External project members

  • Alison Debney, Zoological Society of London 
  • Tim Bean, Roslin Institute
  • Chris Hauton, University of Southampton


Funders and partners

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EA logo
John Ellerman Foundation logo

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