17 January 2024

Project restoring oyster habitats around the UK coast wins The Great British Wildlife Restoration award

Along with our partners Blue Marine Foundation (Blue Marine) and British Marine, we are celebrating a win for wildlife after scooping a top prize for our work on The Wild Oysters Project.

Voted for by members of Parliament and the House of Lords, The Wild Oysters Project won the inaugural Great British Wildlife Restoration award, after 21 other native species projects were shortlisted and more than 60 parliamentarians voted in the new awards created by BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums).

Organised by the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the competition highlights the role of good zoos, aquariums and others in protecting and restoring UK wildlife through field conservation work, habitat restoration and education. The Wild Oysters Project leaders were presented the award by Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP, at a special reception held at Speaker's House. The event featured speeches by Environment Minister Rebecca Pow MP and Shadow Secretary of State for DEFRA, Steve Reed MP, and was sponsored by Sarah Churchill MP and Anthony Mangnall MP.
The Wild Oysters Project, supported locally by partners Groundwork North East and Cumbria and Bangor University, aims to restore Britain’s seas to health through the restoration of the native oyster after the species declined by 95%, with the dramatic decrease due to a combination of habitat loss, pollution, disease and over-harvesting.

Just last year (2 October 2023) the project’s marine conservationists successfully released 10,000 European flat oysters onto a 7,500sqm newly created underwater living reef - marking a landmark moment in the restoration of the native species to UK shores - with similar plans for native oyster reef in North Wales this summer. 

oysters being cleaned
ZSL oyster conservationist Celine Gamble

The ambitious project set up 141 oyster nurseries underneath marina pontoons across three restoration hubs - which acted as maternity wards for young oysters and continued to monitor these mature oysters with the support of 428 citizen scientist volunteers. 

More than 30,535 students and 82,127 members of general public engaged with the project, understanding how to care for the marine environment and spread the word about the importance of a native oyster population in the UK.

Celine Gamble, ZSL’s Wild Oysters Project Manager explained: “We’re determined to bring native oysters back from the brink of extinction. Despite their small size, oysters can make such a big impact within the marine coastal environment; they’re capable of filtering approximately 200 litres of water a day - around a bathtub’s worth – helping to improve our coastal water quality and provide an essential habitat for other marine species. The return of native oysters will help contribute towards healthier and more resilient coastal waters across the UK.” 

“It’s an honour to be recognised by members of Parliament and the House of Lords, and to be celebrated for the work we are doing to protect and restore our native wildlife.”

Members of Parliament and the House of Lords voted for The Wild Oysters Project in a special native species competition organised by BIAZA (the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums). 

We believe that nature can recover, and that conservation is most effective when driven by science. We call for science to guide all global decisions on environment and biodiversity and build a healthier future for wildlife, people and the planet. 

Read more about the project