A major project intended to stabilise shellfish production and “take it to a new level” is about to kick off in Scalloway.
A partnership between industry and science will see pioneering research at a pilot-scale hatchery carried out at the NAFC Marine Centre UHI.
The centre and its partners the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group (SSMG) are embarking on the “stepping-stone” project funded by the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the Scottish Government. This research may lead to the first commercial shellfish hatchery in Scotland.
Over two thirds of rope-grown mussels produced in the UK come from Shetland and relies on the natural availability of mussel spat (baby mussels). A commercial hatchery to produce spat would help to provide stability in supply.
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 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.
“Although we’re a small group, our aquaculture section continues to be ambitious and proud to work alongside the shellfish and finfish aquaculture industries; continuing our work towards our vision for a cleaner, greener and wealthier aquaculture industry.”
Dr Beth Mouat, the 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.”
The hatchery work is to be backed up by research and development projects, which in addition to the NAFC, includes partners from the academic community with researchers at the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture, the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) – which is also a member of the University of the Highlands and Islands – and Marine Science Scotland, as well as the Scottish research-focused enterprise Xelect.