He points out to the sea, which is completely calm today. Here in the Dornoch Firth, oyster reefs are being created, like those which existed for millennia, before being destroyed by overfishing in the early 20th century. “The oysters filter our treated water once more, as they feed – and should eventually clean the remaining 5% of organic compounds from it naturally,” he adds.
As part of the project, marine biologists began by carefully placing 20,000 native oysters on the sea bed in October 2018. Over the next five years their numbers will be increased to four million until a 40-hectare, self-sustaining oyster reef is created. This is the first attempt of its kind in Europe. It has been meticulously researched – and its success would have a positive impact on marine biodiversity and the regional economy. “This place has been our home for 175 years,” says Nelson. “We want to ensure that the Firth’s pristine habitat will be preserved for the next 175 years too.”
Oysters in the ecosystem
One European oyster filters up to 240 liters of water per day. Oyster reefs purify seawater, provide spawning grounds and habitats for many other marine life, drive nutrient cycling, and stabilize the coastal zone.