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Political backing for shellfish event

Rob Fletcher
Rob Fletcher
23 October 2017, at 12:00am

Scotland’s Minister for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, will be opening the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers’ (ASSG) annual conference on October 26.

The two-day event offers a packed programme of presentations and discussion, taking in current business drivers, the international perspective, environmental challenges, and the latest Scottish initiatives in the farmed shellfish arena.

“I am absolutely delighted to be involved in this year’s conference and even more so that it is in Oban, often described as the Seafood Capital of Scotland,” said the Minister. “The ASSG conference is always an opportunity to celebrate Scotland’s farmed shellfish industry, which is a significant and growing part of our aquaculture economy, with producers playing key roles in supporting high-skilled jobs in rural and coastal communities.”

Nick Turnbull and Walter Speirs celebrate 30 years of the ASSG at 2016's event
Nick Turnbull and Walter Speirs celebrate 30 years of the ASSG at 2016's event

“This conference is a great opportunity to bring industry partners, government and sector stakeholders together to discuss how we continue to grow the sector in a sustainable way, ensuring we can supply a healthy, delicious, environmentally friendly and truly Scottish product for years to come,” he added.

Following a welcome from Dr Nick Lake, CEO of ASSG, the conference kicks off with the annual competition to find the best Scottish shellfish. This hotly contested event, will see an expert panel of judges examine and taste samples of mussels and oysters from all over Scotland, before declaring a winner in each of three categories: mussels, Pacific oysters and native oysters.

Head judge and shellfish farmer Nicki Holmyard will be joined by Oban seafood veteran John Ogden, American oyster producer Andy de Paola, Sainsbury’s Aquaculture and Fisheries Manager Ally Dingwall, and Chair of Shetland Food and Drink, Marian Armitage.

Ally Dingwall also opens the first conference session, with a look at consumer expectations of shellfish, followed by Rod Cappell from Poseidon Resource Consultants, who will present findings from a project that examines the critical mass required to assist shellfish production economics in Scotland.

Andrew Holmes from Neogen Europe will discuss how rapid testing helps to optimise shellfish safety, while Andy de Paola will talk about oyster production in the Gulf of Mexico and look at regulatory controls, making the most of his time as a former US Food & Drugs Administration member.

Backing the RNLI

A new feature for this year is a raffle in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), which will be drawn at the annual seafood dinner at Oban’s Fishouse Restaurant on October 26th. Nick Lake is confident of raising funds for the organisation, which is valued by all who take to the sea, and will present a cheque to Tom Kennedy of Oban Lifeboat Station on day two of the conference. Tom is responsible for the vital task of maintaining the town’s Trent lifeboat.

Working with environmental challenges is the theme of the second morning session, with Carlos Campos from CEFAS looking at satellite tracking of algal blooms and water quality through the ShellEye project, Sarah Brown from c2w marine resource consultants talking about biosecurity planning for multiple stakeholders, and Kati Michalek from SAMS presenting on environmental variables and mussel stocks.

The session continues with an update on the latest initiatives, with Michael Tate and Danny Cowing talking about developments with the mussel hatchery project at NAFC in Shetland, Robin Shields from the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre discussing innovation to help develop the Scottish shellfish sector, Andrew Rowley from ARCH UK looking at research support, and Donna Fordyce from Seafood Scotland presenting on the best way to promote Scottish shellfish. 

Stewart Graham, Chair of the Scottish Aquaculture Industry Leadership Group will close the conference, with a talk about the aims, objectives and progress of the group in working towards Scotland’s Vision 2030 goals.