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

The oysters are 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.

More than 4,000 people have been involved in the first full year of the Restoration Forth scheme, which aims to bring back seagrass habitats and native oyster populations to the Firth of Forth, including off the coast of Tyninghame.

Hubs have been set up in North Berwick, Edinburgh and Kinghorn as part of the initiative, which will receive up to £600,000 over three years from ScottishPower Foundation’s Marine Biodiversity Fund.

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.”

A number of community groups and organisations have been involved in supporting the project, including the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick.

The centre has been involved in seagrass being planted in Tyninghame with 25,000 seeds being planted at the beach in April this year.

A spokesperson for the centre said: “We're so excited to celebrate the first native oysters returning to the Firth of Forth in 100 years! The Restoration Forth partners and members of the local community are deploying 20,000 oysters this autumn, with a further 10,000 next spring.

“Together with restored seagrass meadows, the oysters will provide new habitats for marine life, improve water quality and support thriving local communities.”

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.”