Whiskey firm Glenmorangie puts reintroduced native oysters to work

Published on
May 19, 2017
Glenmorangie's DEEP project

A new environmental project established by Glenmorangie has seen European native oysters reintroduced to coastal waters around the whisky producer’s home in the Scottish highlands after an absence of more than 100 years. 

The move is part of the Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project (DEEP), established by Glenmorangie with Heriot-Watt University and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), to restore long-lost oyster reefs to the Dornoch Firth, to enhance biodiversity and also act in tandem with the anaerobic digestion plant to purify the byproducts created through the distillation process. 

Glenmorangie said that such an undertaking is an environmental first for a distillery.

The re-introduction of the oysters comes as Glenmorangie officially opens its EUR 6 million (USD 6.7 million) anaerobic digestion plant at its highlands’ distillery. The plant is expected to purify up to 95 percent of the wastewater that the distillery releases into the Firth, with the remaining 5 percent of the organic waste naturally cleaned by the oysters.

Native oysters flourished in the Firth up to 10,000 years ago before being decimated in the 19th century due to overfishing. 

“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,” said Hamish Torrie, director of corporate social responsibility at The Glenmorangie Company. “This restoration of oyster reefs in the Dornoch Firth, which is an internationally recognised special area of conservation, will help us realize our long-term vision of a distillery in complete harmony with its natural surroundings.”

Earlier this year, 300 oysters from the 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.

“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,” said Bill Sanderson, an associate professor of marine biodiversity at Heriot-Watt.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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