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Shellfish men want government support to reap real potential

UK - Scotland's frustrated shellfish industry has appealed to Government to help lift the restrictions it says is hampering expansion and access to a potential 120 of annual earnings.

At a meeting with Michael Russell, Scotland's environment minister, Doug McLeod, chairman of the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers (ASSG,) said Scotland's industry, and economy, was loosing out against competing nations including France, Spain and The Netherlands.

These countries are producing between 100,000 and 250,000 tonnes of shellfish a year, compared with Scotland's 5,000 tonnes annual yield. What's more, these countries have smaller coastlines, but unlike Scotland, they are being allowed to capitalise on a growth market, says the ASSG.

The Association says that Scottish production could be increased to 100,000 tonnes a year, without creating any stress on the coastal environment.

Mussel lines sited at one of Scotland's sea lochs

The ASSG has complained several times before that the UK and Scottish Governments have not lived up to the demands of a number of EC Directives protecting the quality of coastal waters. They want the quality of Scottish waters to be protected from untreated sewage and other pollutants to allow the shellfish farming industry to expand and get their produce to market without the expense of purification processes.

Stifled
Sea-bed leases are another bone of contention as many have been granted to other operators and which are now stifling domestic growth. It says that some have been taken out by individuals who want an greater environmental control, while others are held by fish farming interests.

ASSG also pointed out that if the Government policy WAS geared at re-locating fish farms away from the mouths of salmon rivers, then aquaculture permits could be re-allocated to shellfish farmers. These activities pose no threat to wild salmon, and there is no problem with sea lice.

Mr McLeod said that planning procedures also require some standardisation. Fees have increased dramatically, and vary widely from area to area. In Shetland panning can cost £3,000 whereas in Dumfries and Galloway a shellfish farmer can pay up to £11,000 to have an application assessed - and there was no guarantee it would be granted.

These costs also depend on lineage and can increase significantly if more lines are proposed. The ASSG says this is in unfair as additional lines are often sited within the same stretch of water, under the same conditions. It says it is simply a revenue-raising exercise that is cost shellfish farmers unnecessary expense.

the Fish Site Editor

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