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New partnership receives government support to stimulate private finance into marine natural capital

New partnership receives government support to stimulate private finance into marine natural capital

Scotland’s native oysters could offer an investment opportunity that benefits nature, communities, and investors.

Marine restoration projects around Scotland working to reverse a steep decline in numbers of native oysters in Scottish waters are the focus of a consortium with plans to develop a pathway toward greater financial investment in the marine environment.

The group, consisting of Kaly Group, the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) and the James Hutton Institute is investigating how to establish a market in marine natural capital in Scotland in a way that includes and supports local communities.

To project has been awarded £100,000 from the Scottish Government and NatureScot, in partnership with The National Lottery Heritage Fund, under the new Facility for Investment Ready Nature in Scotland (FIRNS) grant scheme.

The goal is to create a road map for a new marine natural capital code that will help bring investment to projects like restoring native oyster reefs. These are biodiversity hotspots that generate natural capital and crucial ecosystem services in the marine environment.

These include providing habitats for commercially important fish, the removal of excess nitrogen from the water and improved water clarity.

The consortium chose native oysters as the species was once abundant around the UK coastline, supporting fisheries critical to national food security. They enrich the cultural and natural capital of coastal regions, but have become scarce, with Loch Ryan, in Galloway, being the sole remaining native oyster fishery along the west coast of Scotland.

Taco van Heusden, co-founder of Kaly Group, which was founded in 2022, says, “The marine environment is under threat from overfishing and pollution. By working towards a marine natural capital market, the restoration of our marine environment can become a viable economic activity.

“This will not only help grow the Scottish economy and meaningfully address both the climate and biodiversity crises, but it could also provide an additional form of income for local communities and other users of the marine environment.”

Dr Adam Hughes, senior lecturer in sustainable aquaculture at SAMS, said: “There are lots of restoration projects around the UK and the benefits of such efforts go beyond the species they are trying to protect. In the case of native oysters, they improve the biodiversity around them, take up excess nutrients in the water and may even lock up excess carbon. We want to create a financial market to develop an income stream for these restoration projects, based on the natural capital and ecosystem services they provide.”

Simone Martino, lead researcher on the project at The James Hutton Institute, says: “The project can help deliver long-term benefits for local communities that are expected to come from discussions with other stakeholders in these types of schemes, including the private sector and local councils. These projects can also empower people to share their views on marine habitat restoration, changes in marine habitat condition and the wider willingness to play an active role in delivering new marine environmental markets.”

The new consortium unites leading organisations in the field of marine natural capital to urgently address and resolve issues the challenges around creating a market in this area. This includes challenges related to measurement, reporting, and verification, establishing high-integrity nature markets, legal frameworks for beneficial “ownership” of ecosystem services, ensuring robust scientific foundations and prioritizing community benefits at the core of marine natural capital initiatives. These efforts will place marine natural capital on equal footing with land-based natural capital and attract much-needed private investment.

The £100,000 development funding will help the consortium create an engagement and action plan, ahead of applying for a larger grant in the next FIRNS call for a pilot project.

Dr Hughes adds, “There is a lot of investor interest in natural capital and there are already similar markets established in the terrestrial environment. An example would be investments in peatland conservation because of the effectiveness of these habitats in locking away carbon. The marine environment is a long way behind terrestrial markets, so we have brought together communities, financial institutions, policy makers and researchers to understand what needs to be done to create similar markets to incentivise marine conservation, restoration, and enhancement.” 

Notes to Editors

About Kaly Group:

Kaly Group is a nature-based solution and natural capital platform, entirely focused on the marine environment. Founded in 2022, the company has set          out to provide solutions that benefit shareholders, the environment and local communities in equal measure. Kaly’s initial focus is on the large-scale cultivation of seaweed and production of biostimulants, whilst work is ongoing in relation to the creation of a marine natural capital market.

Kaly Group has received funding from Scottish Enterprise and TriCapital Angel Investors and is based on the Isle of Skye.

About the Scottish Association for Marine Science:

The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) is Scotland’s largest and oldest independent marine science organisation, delivering marine science for a productive and sustainably managed marine environment through innovative research, education and engagement with society.

Based near Oban on the Scottish west coast, our marine research and teaching portfolio is diverse in topic and discipline, global in outlook, project locations and relevance, and delivered by a SAMS team with can-do attitude working in partnership with academic, business, government, regulatory, voluntary and civic society colleagues.

SAMS is a charitable organisation (009206) with a membership that elects the Board members following a recruitment process. It is also a Company Limited by Guarantee registered in Scotland (SC 009292) and operates two wholly owned subsidiary companies: SAMS Enterprise – a specialist marine consultancy – and SAMS Ltd. It is an academic partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

About the James Hutton Institute:

The James Hutton Institute is at the forefront of meeting the global challenges of providing food, energy and water from finite land and natural resources. Our strengths in land, crop, waters, environmental and socio-economic sciences enable a broad range of science disciplines to interconnect, delivering knowledge, products and services that improve the quality of life.

In partnership with people, organisations and governments, our work enhances sustainable environmental, social and economic development, delivering practical solutions for our shared future and influencing the agenda for land use and development for the 21st Century.

About NatureScot:

NatureScot is Scotland’s nature agency. We work to enhance our natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it. Our priority is a nature-rich future for Scotland and an effective response to the climate emergency. For more information, visit our website or follow us on Twitter.

About National Lottery Heritage Fund:

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund

Follow our Scottish accounts @HeritageFundSCO on Twitter and @HeritageFundScotland on Facebook

Each week, National Lottery players raise £30 million for good causes across the UK.

About FIRNS:

The Facility for Investment Ready Nature in Scotland (FIRNS) is co-funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with the Scottish Government and NatureScot. It aims to help create a pipeline of market-ready projects to help attract responsible private investment in Scotland’s nature. This year, 27 diverse projects will share over £3.6 million; approximately £1.8 million from public funds and another £1.8 million matched by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. The funded projects are spread across Scotland from the Solway Firth to Shetland, Fife, across central Scotland, and the Hebrides. Examples include using private finance to restore river catchments to improve water quality and reduce flood risk, while creating community assets such as growing spaces and improved greenspace.