Wild gregarious settlements of Ostrea edulis in a semi‐enclosed Sea Lough; a case study for unassisted restoration

David M. Smyth*, Nicholas S. Horne, Elli Ronayne, Rachel V. Millar, Patrick W.S. Joyce, Maria Hayden‐Hughes, Louise Kregting

*Corresponding author for this work

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Ostrea edulis was once prolific throughout Europe and considered as the continent's native oyster. However, O. edulis currently exists in small fragmented assemblages where natural unaided recovery is rarely encountered. This research identified the small semi‐enclosed sea lough of Strangford on the north east coast of Northern Ireland as one of the few locations within Europe where the native oyster displayed gregarious natural rejuvenation. On close examination, four influential parameters appeared to assist in concentrated settlement; raised topographical cultch formations, shell coverage, the number of fecund in‐situ adult's and site protection. If these components were to be combined and managed as part of reintroduction and restoration initiatives, high density settlements and self‐sustaining populations may be possible. The research also identified that unregulated harvesting of intertidal O. edulis assemblages has the potential to seriously hinder natural recoveries. Indeed, the findings suggest that a review of policy in regards to intertidal hand gathering is necessary. However, naturally occurring high density settlements recorded during this research should be inspirational to all involved in the restoration of the native oyster.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)645-654
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • High density settlements
  • Multiple attachments
  • Native oyster
  • Spatting pools
  • Unregulated harvesting


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