Kilchoan Native Oyster Restoration Project
The Native oysters (Ostrea edulis) is distinct from the commonly sold and non-native pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas). The much slower growing native oysters have a rounder shell and is less tolerant of environmental variation. Native oysters are playing an important role in the Scottish marine environment as they act as an ecosystem engineer by creating reefs, filtering water, storing carbon as well as providing a food source for other wildlife. An adult native oyster can filter and clean up to 240 litres of seawater in a single day. The carbon is stored in a three-dimensional structure on the seabed created by the oyster. These reefs act as a nursery and spawning ground for a variety of marine organisms. Native oysters were once common on the west coast of Scotland including Loch Melfort but, over-harvesting, diseases and a decrease in suitable habitat and water quality has depleted the oyster stock by almost 85% in the last 30 years.
Kilchoan Estate is restoring the native oyster population in Loch Melfort by growing on 24,000 hatchery raised native oysters in cages suspended from our pontoon every year. When they reach the required size, they will be released at pre-surveyed sites along the shoreline creating a self-sustaining and resilient population.
The Kilchoan Estate in partnership with Seawilding are offering free training courses once a year teaching volunteers the skills to conduct Native oyster and biodiversity surveys. By offering these courses a variety of people come together focused on a common goal. This opportunity empowers people to impact and contribute towards the preservation of the marine environment whilst helping with the Kilchoan project! During the first year, six volunteers took part in the training days and are now involved in every aspect of the oyster restoration project. These key volunteers help with the long-term monitoring, data collection and general project works.
Until now we have released a total of 24,000 Native oysters at four different locations into Loch Melfort. Current data shows they are growing well with a mortality rate of just under 5%. In 2022 we will grow another 24,000 Native oysters and add to the existing release sites as well as creating new release locations.
During the Autumn of 2021 Kilchoan hosted a group of climate action volunteers as part of the Raleigh International Re: Green Project. Young people aged between 18-24 years old were part of a residential group undertaking practical and theoretical work focused on climate positive action. The group undertook surveys, young tree after care, moth trapping, clearance of invasive species and were involved in discussions about ecology, land use and conservation. They were the first group to officially record nests of the Marsh Fritillary butterfly (Euphydryas aurinia) at the estate since 1979; a UK biodiversity action plan species.