Working together to restore Scots oyster reef

Europe’s first project to restore an entire reef, which is based in Scotland, welcomed a ministerial visit this week.

The Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project (DEEP), a ground-breaking collaboration between industry (Glenmorangie), academia and the UK’s leading marine charity, was visited by the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Richard Lochhead.

The multi award-winning project, which is restoring native European oysters to the protected area of the Dornoch Firth after more than a century, will recreate entire reefs which has never been attempted in Europe.

The DEEP project, a collaboration between Heriot-Watt University’s Centre of Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology, whisky distiller The Glenmorangie Company and the Marine Conservation Society has created a model with global potential which will help inspire other marine species to be reintroduced in areas where they have become extinct.

Richard Lochhead said: ‘The ground-breaking work being carried out by Glenmorangie, Heriot-Watt University and the Marine Conservation Society with the Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project (DEEP) should be commended – not only is the biodiversity of the Dornoch Firth being enhanced with the introduction of oysters, but these creatures will complete the purification of waste water from the nearby distillery as it is returned to the local eco-system in an environmental first, adding even greater meaning to our national drink’s other title – uisge-beatha, or the water of life.

Glenmorangie are placing 20,000 oysters in the Dornoch Firth

‘This is a fantastic example of a Scottish higher education institution working in partnership with industry and stakeholders to produce world-leading environmental research, displaying innovation and demonstrating the talent for science which has rightly earned our country a reputation for punching above its weight in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.’

Dr Bill Sanderson of Heriot-Watt University, said: ‘Welcoming the Minister today has been a key milestone in the progression of the DEEP project which is already achieving global traction as the boundaries of marine conservation are pushed further.

‘This is a unique collaboration which is bringing about a range of benefits including the growth of the marine habitat of the Dornoch Firth, naturally cleansing the waters adjacent to the Glenmorangie Distillery and benefiting the economy of the native oyster supply chain.

‘It showcases Scotland’s expertise as a pioneering nation in STEM, creating projects that have real world impact. DEEP promise to provide a long-term model for global application.’

Hamish Torrie, head of corporate social responsibility at the Glenmorangie Company, said: ‘’We were very encouraged by the Minister’s visit as it gave us a great opportunity to highlight the potential of DEEP and the importance of the Dornoch Firth as a pristine marine environment.

Meticulous, researched base science is the backbone of the project and working closely with our partners Heriot-Watt University and the Marine Conservation Society, we look forward to continuing to share the results of DEEP with the wider community.’

Over the last 18 months, over 50,000 members of the public of all ages have been directly engaged in the DEEP project from visiting the dedicated project officer at Glenmorangie Distillery to attending Heriot-Watt open days which have showcased the project.