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Expanding Scotland's Shellfish Industry

20 August 2010

UK - A new report has identified significant scope for growth in Scotland's shellfish industry, with mussel farming identified as an area that Scottish producers should place more focus on.

Researchers at the University of Stirling have analysed the prospects and opportunities of farming mussels, oysters and scallops. The report says that, despite Scotland's marine environment offering good opportunities for cultivating shellfish, productions remains low compared to other parts of Europe.

On a visit to Blueshell Mussels in Shetland - Scotland's largest mussel farm - Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said: "There is fantastic potential for shellfish farming in Scotland, as our clean waters offer the right conditions for cultivation in what is eco-neutral industry. As this study shows, there is significant scope to increase our productivity and the volume of shellfish, particularly mussels, that we produce.

"The shellfish industry is an excellent example of sustainable development, supporting vital employment opportunities in remote parts of Scotland. Here in Shetland, some of the world's finest mussels are produced and is an example of what other parts of the country could be replicating.

"The Scottish Government is committed to supporting the industry, which is why we set up the National Shellfish Forum last year, bringing together the public and private sectors to set out a strategic way ahead. Today's report identifies this collaboration as one of the keys to supporting future growth so that Scotland can fulfil its shellfish farming potential."

Michael Laurenson, Chairman of Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group (SSMG) and Seafood Shetland, and managing director of Blueshell Mussels, said: "In 13 years Blueshell Mussels has grown to become the largest rope-grown mussel producer in the UK. Even though we have grown significantly over the years, we have done so in a sustainable way and always with a focus on quality. We have also invested in developing unique cultivation techniques, which allow the mussels to access plenty of natural feed, achieving good growth.

"Seafood Shetland has just completed its pre-assessment for MSC accreditation, along with SSMG's mainland-based members. Achieving full accreditation would underpin our shellfish growers' commitment to sustainability, which we can, in turn, demonstrate to our customers.

"In 2008, Shetland produced 3,506 tonnes of mussels and I believe that there is great potential for Scotland as a whole to increase its tonnage. As Chairman of SSMG and Seafood Shetland, I can take my own experience to the table and support other growers plan for a successful future."

Walter Speirs of the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers said: "The Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers very much welcomed this study, which was an attempt to explore the future for our sector. The input from Stirling University was unbelievably thorough, leaving no areas unexplored. It is very re-assuring for our members to know that Scottish Ministers support our industry, and our attempts to expand it. I now look forward to discussing the findings of the report, and how actions identified can be carried out. It certainly confirms the potential that the cultivated shellfish industry has in Scotland, whilst also identifying possible barriers to growth."

A Study of the Prospects and Opportunities for Shellfish Farming In Scotland was produced by Stirling Aquaculture, based at the University of Stirling, and funded by Marine Scotland. The study covers issues such as site availability, market size and location, development and production and water quality. The report analyses the prospects for mussels, oysters and scallops.

Scottish shellfish production is dominated by mussels with 5,869 tonnes produced in 2008, followed by 303 tonnes of Pacific oysters, 20 tonnes of Native oysters, 27 tonnes of queen scallop and two tonnes of king scallop.

The National Shellfish Forum was established in 2009 following the launch of A Fresh Start - the renewed Strategic Framework for Scottish Aquaculture. The Forum brings together the shellfish industry and its regulators for quarterly meetings to resolve issues raised by the industry.

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