For more than 200 years they have been considered an aphrodisiac, mainly because Italian lothario Giacomo Casanova claimed to eat 50 a day for breakfast to feed his libido.

Now a report has said that oysters can also provide an economic boost with the restoration of native beds in Scotland estimated to be worth £3.5 million a year and set to create jobs in some of the most fragile rural areas.

The study by the James Hutton Institute says oysters will bring not only economic but social value to areas depopulated by migration and struggling with an ageing demographic.

European native oysters were almost fished to extinction in the past and in recent years the commercial sector has chosen the non-native Pacific oyster due to it being faster growing.

But the report – commissioned by the Centre of Expertise for Waters (Crew) – suggests oyster beds could bring people to areas that have been hard hit by depopulation.

Last year saw oysters return to the Dornoch Firth for the first time in more than 100 years.

Researchers took 300 oysters from the UK’s only sizeable wild oyster population in Loch Ryan at Stranraer to two sites in the firth by the Glenmorangie distillery at Tain.

The distillery wants to restore the long-lost oyster reefs to the firth to work in tandem with a new digestion plant to purify the by-products created through the distillation process and keep the waters clean.

The Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project (Deep) established by The Glenmorangie distillery – is restoring 40 hectares of native oyster reef in the firth in Sutherland.

Elsewhere on the firth’s shoreline, a numbers of oyster farms are producing both Pacific and native oysters to meet consumers’ demand, leaving the wild species free to grow without being at risk from fishing boats.

The scheme has already provided measurable economic benefits to small and medium enterprises, the report said.

It analysed Deep’s experiences and discussed how the production of disease-free native oysters could boost Scotland’s produce offering and supply into
the growing European restoration market.

Report author Hazel Allen said: “The Deep approach and consideration of oyster restoration has provided complementary opportunities to enhance the delivery of policies set by the Scottish Government such as Aquaculture Growth to 2030.

“This report identifies several actions to realise the benefits and opportunities arising from a potential Scottish native oyster aquaculture industry. 

“For that we’ll need to promote closer policy integration and working between government agencies and delivery bodies to develop a collective policy approach for the integration of ecosystem benefits and their multiple values.”

Casanova’s notorious biography The Story of My Life is filled with tales of his legendary exploits with women.

He claimed to eat 50 oysters for breakfast every day and swore they were the reason for his boundless energy and libido which is the origin of the belief they are aphrodisiacs . 

They were once plentiful all along the coastline until many species were overfished to near extinction. But now native oyster beds and other shellfish habitats are being revived and are at the highest levels in nearly 
200 years.

Five years ago live oysters were discovered in the Firth of Forth, more than 50 years after they were declared extinct in the area.

At its peak, the Firth of Forth oyster fishery produced more than 30 million oysters a year and even Charles Darwin went out with the boats from Newhaven while studying in Edinburgh.

Over-harvesting caused the fishery to collapse by 1920, and surveys of the Firth of Forth in 1957 reported that oysters were biologically extinct.

Now it is hoped that even with the huge rise in demand for natural oysters, the wild populations will remain undisturbed from fishing boats and thrive.

It comes as the country’s seafood sales hit record levels after huge growth in the shellfish farming industry.

The Scottish shellfish farming industry is now estimated to be worth approximately £12.4m and employs around 350 people.

Hamish Torrie, director of corporate social responsibility for The Glenmorangie Company added: “We are very pleased that this report by Hazel Allen, supported by Crew, has shone a spotlight on the opportunity to collaborate alongside ourselves and our Deep partners, Heriot-Watt and The Marine Conservation Society, on a ‘Blue Economy’ opportunity based on environmental enhancement through native oyster reef restoration.”