It is believed that the nursery located at City Quays was the first in Northern Ireland to be connected to a commercial shipping channel.

It will house about 600 native oysters, which were cleaned, measured, and disease-screened by a team of volunteers, including Ulster Wildlife reps and Belfast Harbour staff before they were installed.

Although it was believed for more than a century that native oysters were extinct in Northern Ireland, Ulster Wildlife has recently initiated several oyster restoration projects, and similar nurseries have been successfully established at Bangor and Glenarm Marina.

The oysters that have been added to Belfast Harbour's waters will release millions of larvae, which will form reefs on the seafloor and provide a habitat for a range of other marine species if they are properly maintained and cared for.

It is anticipated that this will benefit the region's marine biodiversity and the resurgence of local species, for which Belfast Lough was once well-known.

Because oysters have a special potential to lower pollution in the water and increase clarity, they will also help to improve the port's water quality.

The action is also a part of an ongoing effort to recover native oysters in Belfast Lough, according to Simon Gibson, marine, environment, and biodiversity officer at Belfast Harbour.

"The project is an exciting step in Belfast Harbour's journey to achieving our sustainability ambitions around improving water quality and promoting marine biodiversity, and becoming a world-leading green port," said the mayor.

Ulster Wildlife's marine conservation manager, Dr. David Smyth, continued, saying that overfishing, habitat degradation, pollution, and alien species had driven the native oyster population in Northern Ireland dangerously near to extinction.

"Ulster Wildlife has been able to carry out projects like the establishment of the oyster nursery at City Quays—an crucial step in helping to bring back this endangered species with backing from DAERA and Belfast Harbour.

"It will also provide a host of wider benefits to the marine environment through the positive effects oysters can have in improving water quality around a busy industrial port."