Shetland mussel producers have received a big boost with the news that their shellfish has achieved the coveted Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification.
Rope-grown mussels produced in Shetland and on the Scottish Mainland will now be able to display the MSC’s eco label. Industry figures say the recognition should further strengthen the product’s position and open up new markets both in the UK and overseas.
Having produced 4,567 tonnes in 2011, Shetland mussel farms are responsible for nearly two-thirds of Scottish mussel production. The mussels are grown on static ropes suspended in the waters around the islands.
Seafood Shetland and the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group (SSMG) have a partnership whereby a large proportion of the mussels produced in the islands are sold through SSMG, which is based at Bellshill in Lanarkshire.
Seafood Shetland chief executive Ruth Henderson said the industry’s success to date had been built on “its outstanding reputation for product quality”.
“We are delighted by this significant development for the industry, which is worth £5.3 million to the local economy,” Ms Henderson said. “It is vital that we can support this message of quality with the fact that, while we continue to grow, we are doing so in a way that respects the MSC’s principles and criteria for sustainable fisheries.”
At a celebratory lunch at the Shetland Seafood Centre today, MSP Tavish Scott presented the certificate to Ms Henderson. He said Shetland mussels were now a “premier product” on supermarket shelves and welcomed the “tremendous” boost to local industry.
SSMG director Stephen Cameron hailed the “prestigious recognition”, which demonstrated its dedication to “cultivating a quality and sustainable product”.
The MSC’s Claire Pescod congratulated the 36 mussel farms in Shetland and on the West Coast on becoming the “first enhanced fisheries in Scotland to gain the MSC eco label”.
Financial support towards the cost of the MSC’s “rigorous” assessment was provided by The Co-operative Group, which donated £20,000 from its sustainable fishing fund.