TV STAR Ben Fogle is in Hampshire today to throw his weight behind a campaign to reinstate the region’s once thriving oyster market.

The Channel 5 presenter will be visiting the Port Hamble Marina in Southampton to help marine conservation charity, the Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) roll out its plan to restore the native oyster.

The project has been launched to clean up the Solent, which once supported the biggest oyster fishery in Europe, and reintroduce a million oysters to the sea by the end of the year .

BLUE has partnered with MDL Marinas, Land Rover BAR and the University of Portsmouth to roll out the project.

As part of the event Ben, who has presented shows including Countrywise, Harbour Lives and Extreme Dreams, will help a team of almost 20 volunteers to fill cages with 10,000 oysters, and suspend them beneath the pontoons of MDL’s marinas.

Ben, who first became interested in marine pollution after rowing across the Atlantic, said his own experiences fuelled his desire to help with the Solent Oyster Restoration Project.

He said: “My experiences traversing the world’s oceans have opened my eyes to the scale of marine destruction.

“Restoring the native oyster to the Solent would be another step closer to turning the tide against the large-scale degradation of our oceans, and giving something back to the UK’s inshore waters which provide us with so many benefits.”

The native oyster population in the UK has halved over the last 25 years, while globally an estimated 85% of oyster beds and reef habitats have been lost.

Commercial director of MDL Marinas, Dean Smith, said: “Helping to restore the native oyster population, an important part of the local ecosystem which removes pollutants and provides habitats, is one of many ways that the boating community can give back to the ocean and improve the local waters around us for our future enjoyment.”

BLUE aims to increase the population of native oysters in the Solent by 2020 with the long-term aim of achieving sustainable stocks as well as the benefit of improved Solent water quality, ecosystems and associated benefits for Hampshire inshore fisheries.