Oysters return to the Firth of Forth

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The Independent Online

An "extinct" animal has been found alive and well in the Firth of Forth in Scotland. Oysters were thought to have died out in the area decades ago but specimens were found at a secret location.

Scientists have described the discovery as hugely significant and insisted it could lead to future commercial production. The Forth Oyster was previously thought to have died out due to over-fishing and water pollution in 1957.

The specimens were discovered by scientists from Stirling University. Dr Elizabeth Ashton of the University's Institute of Aquaculture stumbled across the creatures.

"I put my wellies on and my raincoat and was walking along the slippery stones by the water's edge many times and then out of the corner of my eye I saw what I thought could be an oyster and the tide was still going out so I had to wait a while, and yes, it was a specimen of a native oyster," she told the BBC.

"The Firth of Forth was once the major oyster fishery in Scotland and at its peak produced over 30 million oysters a year and they were exported all across Europe," added Dr Ashton.

Oyster farming is now centred on the country's south west coast but the discovery has raised hopes that farms could spring up in the Firth once again. A colleague, Dr Janet Brown, told the BBC: "We thought that [the oysters] had been overfished and it was pollution that had caused them to die out.

"Obviously some of them had survived and with improving water quality in the Forth there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to re-establish them."