£2.5m project to help Solent wildlife will also tackle climate change

FUNDING to restore critically endangered marine species in the Solent could also help tackle climate change in Portsmouth.

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 31st January 2020, 5:11 pm
Restoration work to help protect species in the Solent will be carried out. Picture: Shaun Roster
Restoration work to help protect species in the Solent will be carried out. Picture: Shaun Roster

The stretch of water between the Isle of Wight and the mainland has been identified as one of five spots in the UK to benefit from a £2.5m project funded by Natural England and the EU.

Seahorses, native oysters, stalked jellyfish and seagrass are among the wildlife that will be protected by the new Recreation Remedies scheme.

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Tim Ferrero from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust welcomed the news. He said: 'Seagrass beds are an immensely important type of habitat for both people and wildlife.

'Not only do they provide a home for a wide range of amazing species, but they also help tackle global warming, support important local fisheries and help reduce coastal erosion.'

It comes as Portsmouth council officers raised concerns that declining numbers of shellfish in the city's harbours could be partly linked to the levels of toxic nitrogen in the water increasing.

High levels of nitrogen increases algae growth, which in turn damages other marine life as it limits oxygen in the water.

Community safety boss at the council, Councillor Lee Hunt, said: 'As I understand it the nitrates go into the shell of the shellfish so there's potential for the shellfish to beat the nitrate problem in the harbour if there were more of them.

'What we need is for someone to come along and clean up the harbour with more shellfish and get people to not overfish there.'

It is also hoped restoring seagrass beds will create nursery areas for a range of different juvenile fish species, such as seabass in the Solent, as well as cleaning surrounding seawater and absorbing carbon.

Marian Spain, chief executive of Natural England, said: 'This project is a win-win-win for the planet, for people who use the sea and for the marine environment by protecting the delicate sea bed and restoring sea grass meadow, a vital carbon sink, as well as providing new places for boats to moor.'

The other areas included in the project are the Isles of Scilly, Fal and Helford in Cornwall, Plymouth Sound and the Essex estuaries special areas of conservation.

It is not yet known what proportion of the £2.5m will be spent on the Solent.