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Elke Kopp, Carolyn Passey, Deborah Gibbins of Mary Kay Inc.

DALLAS, TX (June 7, 2022) – Oyster reefs benefit humans and the environment through a suite of ecosystem services. A single oyster can filter up to 240 liters of water a day, resulting in increased water quality and clarity while supporting a unique and highly diverse community of fish and invertebrate marine species. In Europe, native oysters once formed extensive beds and reefs in the North Sea, English Channel, and coastal areas from Ireland, areas of Scandinavia and the Baltic, and through the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. However, over 90% of former oyster reefs have been lost[1].

In celebration of World Endangered Species Day and International Day for Biological Diversity, Mary Kay Inc., a global leader in corporate sustainability, announced its expanded partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and European partners to support native oyster restoration projects in the UK and continental Europe.

TNC helped to launch the Native Oyster Restoration Alliance (NORA), a European network made up of governmental agencies, scientists, NGOs, oyster growers, and private enterprises. Established in Berlin in 2017, the network plays a vital role in European marine conservation by re-establishing oyster reefs in the North Sea and beyond. The teams are collaborating on the restoration of the native European flat oyster habitat so it once again supports the biodiversity that relies on it and improved water quality. The Nature Conservancy has over twenty years of experience in oyster reef restoration. The organization aims to provide direct technical support to native oyster reef restoration projects throughout Europe.

“Natural recovery has proven to be very challenging and has been significantly impaired because of destructive fishing practices that have removed the shell foundation of the reefs, making it unsuitable for the settlement of oyster larvae. This has also been compounded by the introduction of diseases and predators. We are very grateful for the work that The Nature Conservancy is doing in conjunction with NORA in mitigating the damage and helping to recover some of the habitats of this very useful and beautiful creature – the European oyster.”

Carolyn Passey, General Manager of Mary Kay United Kingdom and Ireland

Oyster restoration in Europe has been progressing in Germany, The Netherlands, and Great Britain and is expanding rapidly in the areas where the native European oyster was historically widespread. Over the past century, the habitat has collapsed, and in most areas live specimens are rarely found. This project is developing methods for the long-term restoration of oyster stocks and working to overcome obstacles to oyster reef restoration in the region.

“Oyster reefs are vital to the health of the surrounding ecosystem as they provide significant structural and ecological benefits to Europe’s marine environment; helping to stabilize sediments and improve water quality by filtering impurities and cycling nutrients. They provide vital food and habitat for coastal wildlife, including critical species of fish. We are very excited to partner with The Nature Conservancy to tackle the loss of wild native oyster (Ostrea edulis). Their teams have been working hard to promote the reintroduction of the species to restore critical marine biodiversity and improve water quality across Europe”.

Elke Kopp, General Manager of Mary Kay Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands

“Oyster reefs are some of the best investments we can make in conserving natural systems,” said Dr. Elizabeth McLeod, who leads on reef conservation for TNC’s Global Reef Program. “Healthy oyster populations ensure cleaner water and help shield coastal areas and the people who live there from the impacts of climate change. With support from funders like Mary Kay, TNC can restore and protect these important systems for the long term.”

Mary Kay’s partnership with TNC and the NORA network will support projects that protect biodiversity and marine resources across Europe. Examples include:

    • The Blackwater, Crouch, Roach, and Colne Estuaries’ Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ): this 284 square-kilometer marine protected area was designated in 2013 for both native oysters and native oyster beds. By area, it is the largest restoration project in Europe.
    • The Solent (the strait of water that separates the Isle of Wight from mainland UK): its oyster populations have been exploited since Roman times. In fact, between 1972 – 2006, it was Europe’s largest self-sustaining oyster fishery. However, overfishing, disease, and predation caused its collapse and eventual closure in 2013 with only very limited, occasional access to fishers since that date.
  • OYSTER RESTORATION in continental Europe
    • The German North Sea: This area is typical of much of Europe where the native European oyster was historically widespread, but it has been classified as functionally extinct since the mid-20th century. Individual live specimens are only rarely found, and the species is on the IUCN Red List of endangered species. This project is developing and testing offshore methods for the long-term restoration of oyster stocks in the area.

“Mary Kay is proud to support The Nature Conservancy’s work to help reintroduce the native European oyster to restore critical marine biodiversity. The Nature Conservancy’s vast experience in oyster reef restoration on four continents gives us confidence in their efforts to revitalize these rare and critically endangered habitats in European marine waters. At Mary Kay, we are focused on leaving the planet better than we found it. That includes protecting creatures large and small.”

Deborah Gibbins, Mary Kay’s Chief Operating Officer

To read more about Mary Kay’s commitment to sustainability, visit marykayglobal.com/sustainability and download Mary Kay’s global sustainability strategy, Enriching Lives Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow.

About The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably, and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.

[1] Pogoda, Bernadette, et.al. Aquatic Living Resources. Volume 32. (May 2019). The Native Oyster Restoration Alliance (NORA) and the Berlin Oyster Recommendation: bringing back a key ecosystem engineer by developing and supporting best practice in Europe. Retrieved from: https://www.alr-journal.org/articles/alr/full_html/2019/01/alr190016/alr190016.html