The Solent Forum's Water Quality Group launched a Solent Oyster Group Initiative whose aim is to contribute towards developing an evidence base to support the sustainable management of the native oysters Ostrea edulis in the Solent. The objectives of the group were to:
This page outlines possible activities that could be undertaken over time by the SOGI, reflecting discussions at the Solent Forum native oyster meeting in 2012. Using a three phase approach, the intention is that the work programme should guide the actions of SOGI over the next 3 to 4 years in both collating data and applying for funding.
Aim 1: Understand the existing status of the Solent oyster (Ostrea edulis) population and the various factors that may influence its survival/redevelopment by bringing what we already know together, probably in a GIS format.
Activity: Collation and evaluation of data and information (peer reviewed and other) relating to the Solent (and other O. edulis populations where relevant) together with environmental factors that may influence the oysters from as wide a variety of sources as possible. Factors to be considered would cover biological, chemical, physical and human impact aspects, including:
Resources required: This work would commence with all SOGI members (and any other stakeholders we can think of such as colleagues in CEFAS) contributing to a metadatabase of information sources. Once this was complete a short term (at least 4 month) research assistant would be need to be appointed to conduct the review of existing knowledge compare information from different sites and identify gaps for future work. This would require funding, for example, to support a summer intern/studentship based at NOCS (Southampton) or IMS (Portsmouth).
Deliverable: Oyster (Ostrea edulis) metadatabase (with a strong Solent bias and applicability) and review report containing comparisons with other O. edulis populations and recommendations for future research.
Notes: SOGI are aware of MAFF/CEFAS reports, the Southern/Sussex Sea Fisheries Committee/IFCA minutes, DEFRA landing data and sources of environmental data linked to monitoring work by the EA and NE, Port Health water quality monitoring data, student projects from Portsmouth and Southampton universities and the Stanswood data collection (Gillian Mills). Some examples of these are given at the end of this document. All additional suggestions are welcome.
Aim 2: Identify and fill critical knowledge gaps, including collecting O. edulis and environmental samples in selected locations to build a foundation of scientific knowledge by analysing these samples when possible and affordable to do so.
Activity: in the assumed absence of focused funding this phase will look to develop the knowledge base, concentrating on aspects identified by Phase I activities. This could include identifying the economic and social importance of the O. edulis fishery over the last two or three decades, habitat mapping (both possible student projects) as well as developing a proactive sampling plan utilising ‘vessels of convenience’ run by Southern IFCA, Sussex IFCA, the EA, Portsmouth and Southampton universities (and the like) that will allow for ‘free sampling’ and subsequent storage (which may not be totally free) of samples taken in areas of the Solent that are not sampled by anyone else (or develop existing sampling activities to provide samples for a broader scope of analysis). Analysis of water, sediment and tissue samples will be on an ‘as and when funding is available’ basis and may range from inclusion in student projects as well as paying labs to analyse samples. Many sample types can be stored in a -20 degree freezer or in alcohol or formalin as appropriate. The types of samples and analysis envisaged are:
Resources required: good-will from collaborating organisations, willingness of SOGI members to write grant applications and develop student (and other) projects that will facilitate the aims of phase II. Good communication between SOGI members (essential) is needed to make sure that sampling is systematic and methodical. Some analytical and consumables costs will be needed to supply buckets and vials, freezers and preservatives, as well as keeping some analyses (the long term seasonal samples for example) on-going.
Deliverable: Increase in geospatially variable data relating to the Solent oyster entered into the GIS developed in Phase I.
Aim 3: Develop grant proposals to deliver research that will focus on the key factors (biological, chemical, physical or human) suspected of impacting oyster stocks and seek to deliver on the research questions from phase I.
Activities: Collaboration between SOGI members and associated stakeholders to develop grant applications over a period of time, from any source that seems feasible to address the relevant research questions left outstanding by phase I. These may include:
Resources required: Essential for SOGI members to write high quality multidisciplinary proposals and a favourable funding climate.
Deliverables: Greater understanding of factors influencing the Solent oyster and an improvement in restoration project planning and enactment. Aiming for a ‘win-win local –national’ approach in terms of peer reviewed research papers providing scientific evidence for restoration initiatives throughout the UK, as well as in the Solent.