Hotspot for marine life discovered in Belgian North Sea

A hotspot for marine life has been discovered in the Belgian North Sea, under one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) announced this on Tuesday.

In the Belgian part of the North Sea, scientists of the RBINS found a gravel bed with full colonies of long-living fauna. In that gravel bed, they also discovered a living specimen of the European flat oyster. It' the first time in several decades that this species has been found alive on the Belgian seabed. This is remarkable, says the RBINS, given that the fauna-rich gravel bed is located under one of the world's most travelled shipping lanes. 

Historically, Belgian waters are known for their sandy subsoil and gravel beds, but their presence has diminished significantly in recent decades due to fishing and the 'harvesting' of stones for decoration or to facilitate fishing activities. Other human activities such as sea sand mining and development of renewable energy production also have an impact on the existence of undersea fauna. The habitat of marine animals, such as the European flat oyster, becomes damaged and disappears, and so do the species. The discovery of the new gravel bed is hence good news for biodiversity in the North Sea.

North Sea Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open Vld, Flemish Liberals) is delighted: "For the first time in decades, a living specimen of the European flat oyster has been found on the Belgian seabed. This find is all the more special because it was made in a gravel bed in ecologically good condition under one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. (...) We will now provide extra protection for this gravel bed. As Blue Leader, we not only have to protect the far away ocean, but also the extraordinary nature in our own North Sea.


Flat oysters © BELGA PHOTO

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