Oysters have been reintroduced to a Scottish firth after a century’s absence in a “ground-breaking” environmental project.
The Native European oysters have been restored to the Dornoch Firth as part of a project run by Whisky makers Glenmorangie.
The project’s vision is to restore long-lost oyster reefs and enhance biodiversity in tandem with their new £5 million anaerobic digestion plant.
This aims to purify the by-products created through the distillation process – an environmental first for a distillery.
Native oysters flourished in the waters up to 10,000 years ago before being decimated in the 19th century due to overfishing.
Their return for the first time in over 100 years will enrich the eco-system of an important marine habitat.
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.
And 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.
“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.”
In 2014, Glenmorangie forged a partnership with Heriot-Watt University and the Marine Conservation Society known as the Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project (DEEP).
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.
“We are very grateful for the support of Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) and our partners in this exciting collaboration.”