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Oysters set to be big business again

Published: 
17 January 2003

New research at the Southampton Oceanography Centre could result in the return of large-scale oyster gathering in the UK.

Dr Lawrence Hawkins has just started work on a £60,000 three year research project financed by English Nature and the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to investigate ways of encouraging more of the marine creatures to breed successfully. The Shellfish Association of Great Britain is leading the study.

If oyster stocks are boosted, it could spark the return of a million pound a year export trade to countries such as France and Spain.

The Solent has the UK's largest natural population of native oysters. However, across the country, native varieties were almost wiped out by disease in the 1980s and stocks are only slowly returning to normal.

Dr Hawkins said: "Our aim is to research ways of restoring the native oyster population to pre-disease levels. Laboratory tests simulating conditions offshore will examine whether oyster larvae distributed into the sea by the parent would survive and thrive better on a surface of crushed shells or crushed slipper limpets."

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The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University, which celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2002, has 20,000 students and over 4,500 staff and plays an important role in the City of Southampton. Its annual turnover is in the region of £235 million.

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