Can Scotland's native oyster be saved by Scotch whisky?

Scotland has a long history of native oyster cultivation, but overfishing has affected production. Now Glenmorangie has stepped in to revive a reef in Dornoch Firth bay, to provide a habitat for the ‘Ostrea edulis’ to thrive.

The Pacific oyster is dominating the shellfish category in Scotland. There are around 30 pacific oyster businesses within Scotland, with 61% of Scotland’s farmed oysters coming from Strathclyde.

Native oysters target a strong niche market, but only one business, based in Loch Ryan, currently produces the native oyster species on a commercial scale in Scotland.

One way to re-establish oyster cultivation in Scotland is to rescue the reef and increase biodiversity.

Glenmorangie and Project Deep

The Scotch whisky distillery, Glenmorangie, leads the ‘Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project’ (DEEP). In partnership with Heriot-Watt University and the Marine Conservation Society, the project aims to restore native oysters and reefs in the Dornoch Firth bay.

The distillery is introducing 20,000 oysters into the sea next to its factory, to a reef area that covers four hectares. Where the reefs were overfished and are now extinct, Glenmorangie is using 20 tons of discarded mussel and scallop shells to reconstruct the reef. This will be the first time an entire reef has been restored in Europe.

Glenmorangie’s pioneering new anaerobic digestion system provides an efficient method of waste disposal and a sustainable source of energy that can be cycled back to the distillery. Its new anaerobic digestion plant is expected to purify up to 95% of the waste water that the distillery releases into the Firth, with the remaining 5% of the organic waste naturally cleaned by the oysters.

Innovation support for Scottish food and drink companies

There are a couple of businesses in Scotland that are helping to restore native shellfish species. And there are plenty of opportunities for Scottish producers to support marine biodiversity and a sustainable future in the sector by bringing back native species.

Make Innovation Happen is a single source of innovation support for businesses involved in the Scottish food and drink supply chain.

Scotland Food & Drink, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise work in partnership across academia, the public sector and the industry to deliver a comprehensive innovation support service.

Make Innovation Happen can help your business by providing:

  • Access to 'connectors', who can offer support, advice and mentoring, as well as direction to appropriate support
  • Ideas and insights on how to innovate through articles and events
  • Funding through the Collaborative Innovation Fund
  • Help to access other innovation services provided by Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Interface and others

Looking for innovation support?

Our Make Innovation Happen service can help you improve employee, product and process productivity.