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Published - 18/05/2017

Environmental first as Glenmorangie reintroduces native oysters to the Dornoch Firth

Oysters to work alongside new €6 million anaerobic digestion plant

MCS is part of a ground-breaking environmental project which has seen Native European oysters reintroduced to coastal waters around Dornoch Firth after a century's absence.

In 2014 MCS forged an ambitious partnership known as the Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project (DEEP), with project funders Glenmorangie Distillery which is based on the banks of the Firth, and Heriot-Watt University.

The re-introduction of the oysters to the Dornoch Firth comes as Glenmorangie officially opens its €6million anaerobic digestion plant at its Distillery in the Highlands of Scotland today.

Underlining the Distillery’s commitment to a ‘susTAINable’ future, the project’s vision was to restore long-lost oyster reefs to the Firth, to enhance biodiversity and also act in tandem with the anaerobic digestion plant to purify the by-products created through the distillation process – an environmental first for a Distillery.

Calum Duncan, Head of Conservation Scotland for the Marine Conservation Society said “Great strides have been taken in recent years to put in place new sites and measures to help improve the health of Scotland’s seas. Active re-instatement of living seabed habitats such as oyster reefs can play a crucial role in ocean recovery, which is why we are delighted to be part of this partnership and look forward to a successful trial paving the way for larger-scale restoration.”

Native oysters flourished in the Firth up to 10,000 years ago before being decimated in the 19th century due to overfishing. Their return to the Firth for the first time in over 100 years will enrich the eco-system of an important marine habitat. 

The plant is expected to purify up to 95 per cent of the waste water that the Distillery   releases into the Firth with the remaining 5 per cent of the organic waste naturally cleaned by the oysters.

Hamish Torrie, director of corporate social responsibility, The Glenmorangie Company, said: “Glenmorangie’s Distillery has stood on the banks of the Dornoch Firth for over 170 years – and we want to ensure that the Firth’s pristine habitat will be preserved and enhanced over the next 170 years.

“This restoration of oyster reefs in the Dornoch Firth, which is an internationally recognised special area of conservation, will help us realise our long term vision of a Distillery in complete harmony with its natural surroundings.”

Earlier this year, 300 oysters from the UK’s only sizeable wild oyster population in Loch Ryan were placed on two sites in the Firth. Over the next 18 months, they will be studied by Heriot-Watt University researchers with the aim of building an established reef within five years.

Dr Bill Sanderson, Associate Professor of Marine Biodiversity at Heriot-Watt, said: “Oyster reefs are amongst the most endangered marine habitats on Earth and it is thanks to Glenmorangie’s foresight and long term commitment that we can create a pioneering reef restoration project in the Dornoch Firth. It will take many years, but we have the ambition that the DEEP project is an example that could be replicated in other parts of the world.”

Marc Hoellinger, President and CEO of The Glenmorangie Company said: “The DEEP project goes a long way to fulfilling our ambition to be a fully sustainable business, and we are very grateful for the support of Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) and our partners in this exciting collaboration.”

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