Farmed shellfish production in Scotland fell during 2020

Farmed mussel and oyster production, Scotland (Source: Marine Scotland Science)

Shellfish farming in Scotland was badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic during 2020, according to the latest figures from Marine Scotland Science.

The Scottish Shellfish Farm Production Survey 2020 shows that table production tonnage of mussels decreased by 15% from 6,699 tonnes in 2019 to 5,661 tonnes in 2020.

Table production of Pacific oyster shells decreased by 33% from the 2019 total. Additionally, over 1.6 million shells were produced for on-growing in other waters. There was also a decrease in the production of native oyster from 103,000 to 75,000 shells in 2020.

The report, based on information supplied by producers, says the decline is largely due to impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, with many businesses reporting no table trade while the hospitality sector was in lockdown during much of 2020.

There was a very small amount of queen scallop production during 2020 with the biggest producer reporting no production due to the pandemic. There was a decrease in scallop production, from 26,000 to 19,000 shells, compared with 2019.

The report estimates that the Scottish shellfish farming industry fell to around £6.1m in terms of first sale value, representing a year-on-year fall of 23%. There were 125 active businesses compared with 129 in 2019.

Despite these challenges, however, the industry saw its employment rise by 8%, with 300 full, part-time and casual staff being employed during 2020.

Marine Scotland Science says that “active surveillance” for diseases continued through 2020. Movement restrictions remain in place for the presence of the parasite Bonamia ostreae at Loch Sunart and the Dornoch Firth, Highland, West Loch Tarbert, Argyll, and Lynn of Lorne, Loch Creran and Loch Etive, Strathclyde.

Despite this, the UK maintained disease-free status with regard to bonamiasis, marteiliasis and OsHV-1 μvar, with the exception of specific compartments under movement restrictions.

Most of the reported shellfish mortalities during 2020 were attributed to: predation from wild ducks, starfish, crabs and oystercatchers; fouling by sea squirts; adverse weather conditions including storms and temperature extremes; damage due to grading and handling; and from natural causes.

Farmed mussel and oyster production, Scotland (Source: Marine Scotland Science)

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