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Biggest shellfish reef in the world discovered in Scotland, experts believe

Written on:December 27, 2023
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More than 100 million shellfish have been found in Scotland

The discovery of a large shellfish reef on the west coast of Scotland has led experts to believe that it may be the biggest find of its kind. More than 100 million brightly coloured and rare shellfish have been found in Loch Alsh, which is a sea inlet between Skye and Scottish mainland.

During a survey commissioned by Marine Scotland, the shellfish reef, was found to cover an area of 4.6 square miles (7.5 sq km). The reef of flame shells, or Limaria hians, is the largest known colony of flame shells in the UK and possibly the world, according to experts.

The Loch Alsh survey was carried out by Heriot-Watt University on behalf of Marine Scotland. The discovery was made during work to identify new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Marine Scotland coordinated the programme which included eight surveys of 2012. Loch Alsh was a part of this programme, which covered 640 square miles of sea.

Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said that the shellfish form a reef which offer a safe and productive environment for many other species. These flame shells look similar to scallops with many neon orange tentacles that appear between the two shells. They group together on the sea bed and their nests create a living reef to support hundreds of other species. Flame shell reefs are good hunting grounds for young fish, and offer a good environment for scallop larvae.

The shellfish reef findings come amidst another report by authored by Nature Conservancy scientists who found that shellfish reefs across the world have reduced dramatically, with the deterioration of 85% oyster reefs globally. The Nature Conservancy report also details that oyster abundance and the health of shellfish reefs in general, has decreased exponentially over the last 100-150 years, due to destructive fishing practices.

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