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Native Oysters return to the Firth of Forth

For the first time in 100 years native oysters have been deployed into the Firth of Forth as part of the groundbreaking Restoration Forth project [1]

They’re the first of a total 30,000 oysters which will be reintroduced by the project to create a new oyster reef in the famous estuary, providing a vital habitat for many other species including fish, crabs, sea snails and sponges. 

The oysters also filter water and improve water clarity, meaning more light can penetrate through to the seabed, allowing plants like seagrass to photosynthesise and grow.  

Historically enormous native oyster beds provided an important source for food and livelihoods in the area; however, this marine species had been lost due to overfishing and industrial development.

The native oysters being introduced to the Firth of Forth were sourced/supplied from Little Loch Broom and treated onsite to adhere to stringent biosecurity protocols before deployment.

Caitlin Godfrey, Shellfish Engagement Officer at Marine Conservation Society said:

“It’s so exciting that the first native oysters are now in their new home in the Firth of Forth.  Alongside seagrass meadows they will play a crucial role in bringing the estuary back to life and transforming the future of this coastal environment for people and nature.  We couldn’t have come this far with the project without the support of local communities.”

Bill Simpson, Skipper of the Conserver boat said:

“I’ve been working on the Forth for over 50 years and have read and heard stories of oysters and Newhaven fishermen.  It’s good to know we will have oysters back – let’s hope they go forth and multiply.”

Màiri McAllan, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero, and Just Transition said:

“I’m honoured and delighted to have been part of Restoration Forth’s historic event, returning native oysters to the Firth of Forth for the first time in around 100 years. Communities in Scotland are, as they should be, at the forefront of our nature restoration efforts, and it has been very encouraging to see the drive and enthusiasm of people involved in this project to take action to restore and protect their local marine environment. In the midst of a nature and climate crisis, we all have a responsibility to support the recovery of our natural environment. The Scottish Government is committed to working with communities to promote nature restoration across the country, and I look forward to seeing many more projects following Restoration Forth’s example.”

Earlier this year the first seeding of seagrass was successfully carried out in three locations along the Firth of Forth coast. We have seen successful germination as green shoots are now appearing with species, such as juvenile flat fish, already using the young plants as a nursery.

Partners delivering Restoration Forth include WWF, Edinburgh Shoreline, Fife Coast & Countryside Trust, Heriot Watt University, Marine Conservation Society, Project Seagrass, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Scottish Seabird Centre, The Ecology Centre and The Heart of Newhaven Community.

Restoration Forth is funded by Aviva, the ScottishPower Foundation, and the Moondance Foundation; this project is also supported by the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund, through Scottish Marine Environmental Enhancement Fund (SMEEF) facilitated grants. 

Image by Kate Baucherel from Pixabay