The first stock of native flat oysters produced by the Orkney Shellfish Hatchery (OSH) has been released into the ocean, following the sale of native oyster spat to a local restoration initiative.

The release, which saw more than 11,000 of OSH’s land-grown, native oyster spat planted into the ocean on the west coast of Scotland, was organized by a Scottish project dedicated to replenishing depleting shellfish stocks. 

“Seeing the first release of our native oyster spat into the ocean is a huge milestone for our team and hatchery and is just the start of many releases we hope to do alongside restoration projects at a global scale,” Orkney Shellfish Hatchery Managing Director of Aquaculture Nik Sachlikidis said. “Since inception in 2017, we have invested heavily into the latest hatchery technologies and bio-secure systems in a bid to ensure we only produce the highest quality shellfish products. Not only does this ensure that our products are given the very best chance of wild survival, but it also mitigates the risk of adding further diseases to our seas.”

OSH said increasing the healthy native oyster spat will improve the quality of ocean reefs, where oysters provide shelter and food to other coastal species, including commercially important fish and shellfish. The oysters will also provide natural seawater filtration and, through habitat formation, provide carbon sequestration, it said.

The multi-species hatchery, which is supported by Cadman Capital Group – a multinational alternative investment firm, has made additional spat sales to local oyster farming companies, who will further grow the oysters to market size.

Last month, the hatchery secured funding for four new aquaculture graduates to fill hatchery technician positions after winning a Scottish educational grant through the Highlands and Islands Enterprises’ Graduate Support Program. The selected graduates will continue the Lamb Holm hatchery’s research into the on-land culture of native flat oysters and European clawed lobsters.

“This funding will allow us to bring new, eager graduates into the team, providing them with the opportunity to take their first steps into the hatchery world, alongside our team of experienced and highly knowledgeable aquaculture professionals. Most importantly, we are excited to bring more skilled, local employment to Orkney,” Sachlikidis said. We would like to extend a huge thank you to the Highlands and Islands Enterprise for their ongoing support and we are excited to fill the positions quickly with graduates that are keen to be a part of our exciting native oyster and clawed lobster projects.”

Located on the remote island of Lamb Holm, within the Orkney archipelago, OSH supplies premium shellfish products to the U.K. and European restoration market – to replenish depleted wild stocks.

The Highlands and Islands Enterprises’ Graduate Support Program seeks to provide graduates across Scotland with well-paid work experience placements in key sectors and spans a wide variety of industries. Positions under the scheme are available to all graduates that have finished their studies in the last four years.

Photo courtesy of Orkney Shellfish Hatchery

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