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Bumper year for Scots shellfish

Rob Fletcher
Rob Fletcher
01 June 2017, at 1:00am

The Scottish shellfish industry experienced one of its best years on record with production of mussels, scallops and both species of oysters all increasing compared to 2015, and the sector generating 11.7 million at first sale value, up from 10.1 million the year before.

According to the results of the Scottish Shellfish Farm Production Survey, which was published by Marine Scotland Science this week, mussel production rose by 6 per cent year on year to reach 7,732 tonnes – the highest level on record. Pacific oyster production rose by 31 percent, to over 3.5 million, while a further 4.6 million were produced for on-growing, showing that markets both home and abroad are well established.

Nick Lake Chief Executive of the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers (ASSG), told The Fish Site: "We are very pleased to see another increase in the outputs of both the Scottish oyster and mussel sectors. Importantly the quantity of mussels for on growing already in the system also indicates that we are on track for further increases in 2017. This fits with the predictions arising from the recent Vision 2030 report and the determination to see a doubling of the outputs from Scottish shellfish.

"With new farming businesses coming into play and the efficiency of existing sites being improved this work by the industry is paying dividends. This is matched by the market situation with consumer sales progressively increasing and overall demand for the high quality of Scottish shellfish products being seen in all market sectors from farm gate to multiple retail."

There was also an increase in both queen scallop production (33,000 to 155,000 shells) and scallop production (30,000 to 35,000 shells) since 2015. Native oyster production increased very slightly, from 200,000 to 201,000 shells.

Commenting on the survey, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing said: “Shellfish growing is a significant food and drink success story and these latest production improvements show the real potential for further sustainable growth This is an opportunity encouraged by the first ever farmed shellfish summit I hosted last year and now being taken forward through the Aquaculture Industry Leadership Group.”

In total 138 businesses, employing 318 full, part-time and casual staff (down 8% compared to the previous year) took part in the survey, while during the course of the year three businesses became authorised and six businesses rescinded their authorisation. The survey showed that, of the 138 businesses authorised at the end of 2016, 76 recorded sales during that year. These 138 authorised businesses farmed 333 active sites, of which 180 (54%) placed shellfish on the market.

The greatest contribution in regional mussel production was from Shetland, accounting for 74% of Scotland’s total, while the Strathclyde region produced 61% of Scotland’s farmed Pacific oysters. Queen scallop production increased by 370% since 2015 and the production of farmed scallops increased by 17%, both these sectors continue to target small niche markets.

Prices of farmed shellfish fluctuated throughout the year. Their value at first sale was estimated from the following figures (supplied by industry these vary with demand, level of production and geographical area of origin). The average price of Pacific oyster was £0.39 per shell; native oyster, £0.60 per shell; scallop, £2.03 per shell; queen scallop, £0.12 per shell and mussels £1300 per tonne.