Pacific oysters farmed on Northern Ireland’s coasts have established feral breeding populations in the wild, scientists have discovered.

Marine biologist De Stefano Mariani said the invasive oysters are now an established species in the wild and controlling aquaculture is no longer an effective way to curb their spread.

Dr Mariani of the University of Salford published the findings this week in the Journal of Heredity. His one-year study was based around the genetic testing of oysters in Lough Foyle.

Pacific oysters originally come from the Far East. However, since introduction to Europe in 1966 and North America in 1920, they have become invasive in many places, causing significant changes to local ecosystems.

Dr Mariani said there would likely be Pacific oyster clusters “pretty much everywhere along the Northern Irish coast, adding: “The oysters may make the settlement of mussels (tougher). They could also alter the features of the coast.