Cuairt suas (a round up) on where we are. Topics to cover include farm operations, experiments and future plans but first, some further reflections on the Native oyster (Ostrea edulis).
Native Oyster (Ostrea edulis)
Over the last few years, we have become more and more involved with the culture of the Native oyster (Ostrea edulis) and we have covered our involvement in various restoration activities here. As a result, we have become increasingly passionate about try to help save this arguable endangered species.
This weekend we were out exploring the shore with the children, looking for shells and partan (crabs), and unexpectedly came across what appears to be an extinct native oyster bed. The location came as somewhat of a surprise, but on reflection the habitat was ideal. Calm, protected from swell, with hard gravel sand mixed with large cobble stones and an abundance of sea grass.
The location remains a secret, as I want to do a full survey to confirm if there happen to be any surviving oysters. If I find any it is likely to remain a secret because unfortunately there have been many incidents in Scotland of unscrupulous individuals destroying beds to make a quick profit.
So what of the bed itself? Well, the bed contained hundreds, if not thousands of mature adults. Most of them were 100 to 200mm in size. There were smaller ones but they were in the minority. It seems that the large adults all died in-situ at the end of their lives. This would seem to suggest that there was a recruitment failure across the bed, either the adults failed to reproduce or, more likely, some factor prevented the young vulnerable juveniles from making it into adulthood.
This raises the question of what happened, but I do not think there shall ever be an answer to that question. Someone suggested to me that it might be bonamia but that seems unlikely. That disease is all a recent arrival and these shells seem to much older. If I was to hazard a guess, I would say human factors are the key driver, and these probably relate to pollution of the environment at some point.
This is such a sad outcome, however there might be hope in this situation. Like I said, the habitat variables look ideal, and it is definitely the case that effluent release is much more controlled these days. I think this location, if it is indeed extinct, would make an ideal location for a trial re-introduction, and that could be a really interesting proposition.
Farm operations continue as per normal. We are still busy building infrastructure but various issues mean we are a wee bit behind schedule.
On the upside, the culture technique changes we have made the Native seed have worked well and growth has been excellent and mortality low, a really good outcome. The Rock oysters continue to ‘rock’, nothing seems to hold them back and it is becoming apparent that Little Loch Broom is a fantastic location for growing this variety.
We have been busy during lock down, moving and upgrading our distribution centre. This shall be a massive boost to productivity and allows us to ship greater quantities of oysters to our customers in a much reduced time frame.
Our culture experiments are ongoing. At this point, it is to early to offer any commentary on the outcomes. In due course, we shall present more details around our findings. Stay tuned for more.
Due to the challenges of Covid we, like all other businesses, are being forced relook at our business from top to bottom. We have taken an exciting decision to expand our online presence significantly, and a new online e-commerce site offering our oysters for sale shall open before Christmas. More to follow on to that shortly.