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Heriot-Watt researchers have been involved in a ground-breaking environmental project, pioneered by Glenmorangie, which has seen Native European oysters reintroduced to coastal waters around the distillery after a century’s absence.

Glenmorangie forged the Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project (DEEP) partnership in 2014 with Heriot-Watt University and the Marine Conservation Society. It aimed to restore long-lost oyster reefs to the Firth, to enhance biodiversity and also act in tandem with a €6million anaerobic digestion plant to purify the by-products created through the distillation process, an environmental first for a Distillery. 

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.

Dr Bill Sanderson

The re-introduction of the oysters comes with the official opening of the plant which is expected to purify up to 95 per cent of the waste water that the Distillery releases with the remaining 5 per cent of the organic waste naturally cleaned by the oysters.

Native oysters flourished in the Firth as long as 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.  

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 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.”