Isle of Wight ferry passengers travelling to and from Yarmouth are sailing past around 120 million oyster larvae - the product of a colony of around 300 oysters.

Blue Marine Foundation and the universities of Portsmouth and Southampton have been working with cross-Solent operator Wightlink to release them into Lymington River.

Only a fraction of the larvae will go on to reach adulthood and the success of the project is being monitored by the organisations, along with the Zoological Society of London.

Dr Luke Helmer, restoration science officer at the Blue Marine Foundation said: "Oyster reefs are important as they filter the water, reducing the impacts of excess nitrogen. They stabilise sediment, enhance fish production and also provide habitats for hundreds of species.

"Reefs have declined by 95 per cent around the UK’s coastline and their critical inputs have been lost from the environment.

"In order to increase the number of breeding oysters within the Solent, we have been working with Wightlink and other partners to create high density populations which release millions of larvae.

"The new colonies, suspended in nurseries underneath pontoons, have been shown to provide a refuge for other marine life.

"Up to 130 different species have been found living within the colonies so far, including critically endangered European eel, juvenile spiny seahorse and sea bass."

Wightlink Chief Executive Keith Greenfield said: "As we cross the Solent almost a thousand of times a week, we want to make a real contribution to enhancing the environment beneath the waves.

"We are fortunate to be operating in an area that has a wealth of scientific know-how to help us to do that.

"These experts are helping us to make sure what we do really does have a positive impact on the Solent’s diverse ecology.”