A new project aimed at taking Scottish mussel production to a new level is about to kick off in Shetland.
It is the result of a partnership between industry body the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group (SSMG) and scientists at NAFC Marine Centre UHI in Scalloway.
They hope their initiative, which is funded by the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Scottish Government, will lead to the creation of Scotland’s first commercial shellfish hatchery.
More-than two thirds of rope-grown mussels currently produced in the UK originate from Shetland.
But harvesting success on the islands depends on the natural availability of spat, or baby mussels.
The establishment of a commercial hatchery to produce spat would help to ensure stable supplies to markets in the UK and overseas.
Shetland’s hatchery project will be backed by a programme of research and development.
This will be carried out by the scientists in Scalloway, alongside partners from the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology academic community, Stirling University’s Institute of Aquaculture, the Scottish Association for Marine Science, Marine Science Scotland and St Andrew University spin-out company Xelect.
NAFC aquaculture and hatchery manager Gregg Arthur said: “The funding from HIE and SAIC will undoubtedly let us take a leap forward in our skills and know-how in producing mussel spat.
“This innovative hatchery project will also augment our facilities and let us build on our working partnerships with SSMG and international knowledge partners.
“We are also looking forward to working with partners elsewhere in UHI (the University of the Highlands and Islands) and the other Scottish research institutes through the SAIC-funded research projects.
“Operating in parallel, these research projects are going to give valuable feedback, guidance and solutions to the pilot-scale mussel hatchery.”
Mr Arthur added: “Although we’re a small group, our aquaculture section continues to be ambitious and proud to work alongside the shellfish and finish aquaculture industries; continuing our work towards our vision for a cleaner, greener and wealthier aquaculture industry.”
Beth Mouat, head of marine science and technology at NAFC, said: “This is an excellent example of how the expertise and facilities here at NAFC can be used to support local industry and provide community benefits.
“Through close working with our industry partners and the wider academic community we can help to address some of the most pressing issues affecting the seafood sector, which is such a vital part of Shetland’s economy.”