An Invergordon man leads outreach work on the Glenmorangie Distillery and Marine Conservation Society (MCS) Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project (DEEP) to restore native oyster reefs

Tom Bannerman DEEP Information Officer.

OUTREACH’s work and dedicated visits to a world famous Easter Ross distillery shed new light on an innovative project on the Dornoch Firth.

The Glenmorangie Distillery and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) Scotland have joined forces to bring marine awareness and education back to the Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project (DEEP).

DEEP seeks to restore long-lost native oyster reefs to improve water quality in the Dornoch Firth in conjunction with the distillery’s anaerobic digestion plant.

DEEP Information Officer Tom Bannerman will take visitors to the distillery on a tour of the coastal area adjacent to the project.

Mr. Bannerman will provide a full history and overview of current activity, his partners and his overall ambitions for the project. This will be in addition to the distillery tours that people come from far and wide to experience in Glenmorangie.

Mr Bannerman, who is already part of the local community having grown up in Invergordon, is currently captain of regional rugby team Ross Sutherland. It will also engage with local schools and community groups to provide talks and educational activities, beach cleanups and events during the summer months and through October 2022.

DEEP is a partnership between The Glenmorangie Company, the Marine Conservation Society and Heriot-Watt University. The aim is to restore the oyster reefs of the Dornoch Firth which disappeared a century ago. This makes the water cleaner, improves marine biodiversity in the region and stores carbon. To date, 30,000 oysters have been restored, with a plan to reach 200,000 oysters by 2024 and four million within five years.

Annette Mackenzie, Glenmorangie Distillery Visitor Center Manager, Hamish Torrie, Glenmorangie CSR Communications Manager, Kirsty Crawford, Volunteer and Community Engagement Manager, Scotland at the Marine Conservation Society and Tom Bannerman, Officer information DEEP.
Annette Mackenzie, Glenmorangie Distillery Visitor Center Manager, Hamish Torrie, Glenmorangie CSR Communications Manager, Kirsty Crawford, Volunteer and Community Engagement Manager, Scotland at the Marine Conservation Society and Tom Bannerman, Officer information DEEP.

The reef works in tandem with the distillery’s anaerobic digestion plant. This investment to clean his wastewater and generate biogas now provides 15% of the energy he needs to run the distillery and reduces his natural gas consumption.

Hamish Torrie, Glenmorangie’s CSR Communications Director, said: “The seasonal role of DEEP Information Officer was first introduced in 2016, and having had to discontinue it during the pandemic, we are now very pleased to welcome Tom to the Glenmorangie team this summer. Tom’s tour is an extension of our visitors’ distillery tours, sharing the great work being done on DEEP, a pioneering environmental project. He will also go out into the local community to bring DEEP to life through educational talks, fun initiatives and beach cleanups.

“Glenmorangie is dedicated to protecting and enhancing our beautiful surroundings on the Dornoch Firth, which has been our home for nearly 180 years. And we couldn’t do all of this without our MCS partners and Heriot-Watt University – it’s a truly collaborative effort.

Kirsty Crawford, Volunteer and Community Engagement Manager, Scotland at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “It’s wonderful to have an MCS presence at the distillery to shine a light on this pioneering project. This role involves speaking to thousands of visitors to the distillery during peak season, educating and enthusing them about the goals of our marine work, and working with the local community to promote our goals of a cleaner ocean, better protected and healthier.

“So far, Tom has organized a host of outreach activities ranging from beach cleanups to wildlife surveys and education sessions. We look forward to the future of our partnership as the project continues to unfold. develop.”

Did you know…?

* The Glenmorangie distillery was founded in 1843 and is recognized as a pioneer in its field, combining tradition and innovation.

* DEEP is the first attempt to restore the European oyster in a protected area where it died out. It is an innovative partnership between Glenmorangie, which provided seed funding, Heriot-Watt University through research and fieldwork led by Professor Bill Sanderson, and the Marine Conservation Society.

* The first phase of the project, led by Professor Sanderson, explored archaeological records, ancient literature and fishing records, then sampled shell material, to show that oysters had existed in the Dornoch Firth until ‘at 10,000 years – and that reintroducing them was feasible.

* Oysters are renowned for their ability to filter water. So within a decade it is believed that the established reefs, together with the anaerobic digestion plant at Glenmorangie, will account for 100% of the organic matter in the water the distillery discharges into the Firth.

* The Dornoch Firth, on whose shores the Glenmorangie Distillery sits, is an Area of ​​Outstanding Natural Beauty and a Special Area of ​​Conservation, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI) and an Area of ​​Special Protection of Importance international. Conditions are now considered favorable for marine life in the Firth. DEEP aims to further improve water quality and biodiversity.

* The native European oyster is thought to have thrived in the Dornoch Firth for around 8,000 years, until it was decimated by overfishing in the 19th century – as was common for oyster populations around the world . Today it is virtually extinct in the wild. Oysters bring many benefits to the marine environment. They filter water as they feed, absorbing nitrogen and improving water quality. Additionally, oysters create microhabitats for other marine species, which increases the biodiversity of an area.

* The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is the UK’s leading charity for the protection of our seas, coasts and wildlife. MCS champions a vision of sustainable fishing, abundant marine life and clean seas and beaches for all to enjoy. As part of DEEP, Glenmorangie funded a part-time position at the distillery for an MCS Information Officer. The incumbent, in place six months each year, engages visitors in the work of MCS, conducts beach clean-ups, educational workshops and encourages wildlife viewing, including wading birds and seals that bask on the Firth sandbanks.

* Glenmorangie says its wastewater treatment plant is part of its long-term commitment to protecting and enhancing the beautiful environment in which its distillery will always be rooted. It says: “Glenmorangie has always been fully compliant with Scottish Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for the Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD – a measure of organic compounds in water) of the water it discharges. in the Dornoch Firth.

“But inspired to further increase its sustainability, Glenmorangie began building an anaerobic digestion plant in 2015. This unique plant, opened in 2017, processes the distillery’s pot ale (the solids that remain after primary distillation), lees spent water (residue from alcohol distillation) and wash water (waste water used in brew kettle cleaning and wash downs) The plant reduces COD by 95% from the water that Glenmorangie discharges into the Dornoch Firth.

“In a few years, established oyster reefs will make up the remaining 5%, ensuring that the nutrient-rich outflow from Glenmorangie is fully accounted for. Other by-products of the factory are copper-rich sludge and biogas. The biogas is used to create steam which helps power the distillery, reducing Glenmorangie’s dependence on fossil fuels by 15%. Meanwhile, the sludge, which contains copper from Glenmorangie’s signature stills , the tallest in Scotland, are passed on to local barley growers, helping to reduce their reliance on fertilizers for land that is naturally copper deficient.”

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