SHIPPING AND DEVELOPMENT
The demand for shipping in the 18th century led to the development of shipyards around the firth. Ships were built from timber that was felled in forests growing alongside local rivers and floated down-river, or from imported timber. The biggest yards were at Kingston and Garmouth, Speymouth. During their hundred-year history, over 600 boats were constructed for the British Empire's merchant fleets. Some limited shipbuilding and boatbuilding still continues around the firth, including the busy Macduff shipyard.
There are many ports within the Moray Firth. The main types of shipping are trading vessels including those transporting oil, offshore oil installation craft and fishing boats.
The main areas of industrial development are concentrated within the inner Moray Firth with large scale industry at Inverness, Nigg, Evanton, Ardersier and Wick. In the Cromarty Firth, suitable building land and access to deep water (the water is 40 to 50 metres deep between the Sutors) has provided a focus for development around this firth. The main industry types on the coast of the Moray Firth are oil ( 36) related operations, whisky distilling, woollen goods manufacture, sand and gravel quarrying, fish farming and fish processing.
The Cromarty Firth, Inverness, Wick, Fraserburgh and Burghhead are major commercial ports with the ability to handle large commercial oil-related traffic. Major fishing ports include Buckie, Macduff and Lossiemouth. While the many smaller harbours such as Findochty, Portnockie, and Rosehearty are now increasingly used by recreational boats.
Associated with increasing development in the Moray Firth are increasing amounts of waste products, often disposed of indirectly into the sea via the river catchment or directly into the marine environment of the Firth. This does reduce the water quality, however in general the water quality in the inner Firth is good.
Use of the Moray Firth for shipping, particularly for the transport of oil-related products, increases the potential for accidental spills.
Industrial development, agriculture and refuse disposal have all resulted in land claim on the coastal fringe of the Moray Firth, focusing particularly on the estuarine areas. This has resulted in habitat loss, principally of intertidal areas which provide important feeding sites for many species of bird (see Waders and Wildfowl). Examples include part of Nigg Bay, the site of the BP Beatrice Oil Terminal, and an area of Longman Bay in the Inverness Firth currently being used as a waste disposal site.
The Cromarty Firth Port Authority have set up a Cromarty Firth Liaison Group. The group aims to provide a forum to discuss issues which affect the Cromarty Firth and the encourage best practice to minimise impacts.
Utilising the firth's marine resources and developing maritime industries have formed the backbone of the economy of the Moray Firth . While activities may have changed over the centuries, they have left us a rich architectural heritage, including netting stations, icehouses, fishing towns, harbours and lighthouses.