Aquaculture of the native European oyster in the Belgian North Sea, will not only support a new economic activity but will also help planned restoration efforts through systematical provision of the restoration zones with oyster seed. The European oyster is almost extinct and for these restoration efforts to be successful, recruitment should be safeguarded year after year. This can be achieved through aquaculture practices. On the long run, the re-population of native oyster reefs will provide spat abundantly, opening the possibility of harvesting natural oyster spat for grow-out in farms. This interdependency between aquaculture and restoration, two sectors that have more often than not opposed interests, makes this research project so unique.
This research will answer 4 questions: How fast do flat oysters grow? Is natural spat available? Is the bonamia disease a real threat for aquaculture and the restoration? How can the animals be transported without losses through stress? A modeling exercise will indicate how well the native oysters grow in the areas delineated for aquaculture and how aquaculture will provide spat for restoration. Secondly, spat collectors will be deployed to collect spat. Thirdly, the presence of the bonamia disease that devastates European oyster reefs, will be monitored, to limit its impact on Belgian aquaculture and restoration efforts. At last, a protocol will be drafted to ensure safe transport of spat during aquaculture and restoration.