LARGS Yacht Haven has been selected as the Scottish host of a new wild oyster project hailed as one of the biggest conservation projects of its kind in the UK.

The Wild Oyster Project, launched by The Zoological Society of London, aims to restore native wild oyster populations along the UK coastline.

The Yacht Haven will play a crucial role with oyster cages suspended under its pontoons, so that young oysters can be released to create new reefs.

It is hoped that the project will restore around 20,000 square kilometres of reefs previously lost from the UK coastline.

Carolyn Elder, haven director, says the facility is proud of its reputation and to be chosen as the Scottish site for the project is a huge honour.

She said: “We’re immensely proud of our reputation for good environmental practice and are delighted to be have been chosen as one of the UK’s hosts for The Wild Oyster Project.

“Selected because of our clean, clear waters, we have a strong history of oysters in the Firth of Clyde with our neighbouring oyster farm.

“The project will demonstrate that wildlife can be cultivated in enclosed, leisure environments, enabling our boating and local communities to work in perfect harmony with marine conservation.”

The project was launched thanks to funding of more than £1 million of lottery funding, with other sites across the UK including Wales, Tyne and Wear, and the south coast of England.

The project is planned for launch this year - and a local person with specialist knowledge is being employed to work on it.

Environmentalist David Nairn, who runs Fairlie Coastal and has a berth at the yachting mecca, has been given the key role by the Zoological Society of London.

This will involve overseeing and cleaning the cages following instillation, as well as lifting, maintaining and checking them on a regular basis.

Conservationists have seen native oyster populations decline by 95 per cent across the UK, thanks to over-harvesting, loss of habitat, pollution and disease.

Research has shown that healthy oyster beds promote a rich biodiversity of associated species, creating fish nursery habitats for seabass, bream and edible crabs.

James Scott-Anderson, British Marine Environmental executive, says the project is a chance to build a sustainable future for marinas across the UK.

He said: “It’s a unique opportunity to bring together marine industry, science and expertise. Connecting with coastal communities, sharing resources and knowledge to build a sustainable future for UK marinas.”