Frankie Lawrence-Thompson

Coastal restoration led by zoos wins big in Parliament

Posted: 17th January, 2024
  • ZSL’s oyster restoration project beat 21 other native species projects to win BIAZA’s Great British Wildlife Restoration Award 
  • The competition saw over 60 parliamentarians vote for native species projects, from bison reintroductions to seagrass restoration, all led by British Zoos and Aquariums 
  • The winner was feted by politicians at a special parliamentary reception hosted by the Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP,  featuring speeches by Environment Minister Rebecca Pow MP and Shadow Environment Minister Steve Reed MP 

Members of Parliament and the House of Lords have voted for a coastal restoration project, led by the Zoological Society of London, in a special native species competition organised by BIAZA (the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums).  

At the event yesterday (16 January), BIAZA brought together scores of people at Speakers House including thirty MPs, Lords, and those representing Zoos, Aquariums and conservation organisations to celebrate the conservationists protecting our native wildlife. 

The winning project, the Wild Oysters project, is a partnership between the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Blue Marine Foundation, British Marine and others to reintroduce over ten thousand native oysters to specially designed reefs in the North East of England.  

Celine Gamble, ZSL’s Wild Oysters Project Manager said: “The Wild Oysters Project are determined to bring native oysters back from the brink of extinction. Despite their small size, oysters can make such a big impact within the marine coastal environment, their return will help contribute towards helping to improve our coastal water quality and provide an essential habitat for other marine species. It’s fantastic to be recognised by members of Parliament and the House of Lords, and to be celebrated for the work ZSL are doing to protect and restore the UK’s native wildlife.”

Native oyster reefs have been disappearing from British waters declining by over 95% since the 1800s. This significant decline is as a result of a combination of habitat loss, over-harvesting, pollution and disease.    

Runners up were announced as: Twycross Zoo, for their project Skills, Data & Biodiversity, Chester Zoo, for their Nature Recovery Corridor project, and Askham Bryan College, for their work Protecting Pollinators with College Students.  

The competition was organised by the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums, who are keen to emphasise the role of good zoos and aquariums in protecting and restoring our wild isles from hedgehogs to hedgerows. BIAZA zoos and aquariums don’t just protect global species in their field conservation work, but also fund, educate and enact conservation at the heart of Britain, where nature depletion is leading to catastrophic species decline. 

Andy Hall of BIAZA and the competition organiser said: “All the projects in this competition were absolutely brilliant. Hopefully we have inspired those in power to think more carefully about how they can redouble their efforts to protect our Great British nature. If they don't, we stand to lose our iconic species, great and small.” 

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