Jan De Nul joins large-scale oyster reef restoration project in Belgian North Sea

Oyster reef Voordelta North Sea
Oyster reef in the Dutch Voordelta in the North SeaNative Oyster Restoration Alliance/Waardenburg Ecology/Floor Driessen

On behalf of the Belgian Federal Service of Public Health, partners from science and industry are now building the BELREEFS project: the first offshore pilot project for large-scale oyster reef restoration in the Belgian North Sea. BELREEFS is a collaboration between the Jan De Nul Group, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Shells and Valves, and Mantis Consulting, acting in accordance with the recommendations of the Native Oyster Restoration Alliance.

BELREEFS consists of three phases: from the current gravel bed to the deployment of oyster reef substrate seeded with oyster spat within the BELREEFS project, and towards the third phase where biodiversity increases. This biodiversity is characterised by various marine fauna and flora species attracted to a self-sustaining oyster reef.

To maximise the survival and reproduction of oyster reefs, the team will identify locations with the most suitable seabed and environmental conditions. Additionally, natural protection from damage and optimal placement conditions are crucial. Therefore, a detailed mapping of the seabed will also need to be conducted.

BELREEFS will use a number of innovations. One of these is "remote setting", a technique in which oyster larvae are allowed to settle directly on a suitable substrate in the lab for later release into the sea.

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