Seafood Shetland in partnership with the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group (SSMG) has entered its mussel fishery for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Assessment.  If successful, the fishery’s products will be eligible to bear the MSC ecolabel which the partnership believes will be a great boon for the industry, opening up new markets in the UK and further afield.

The fishery produces blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) grown on static ropes suspended in the clean waters around Shetland and the Scottish coast. At present, most of the mussels are sold in UK supermarkets, foodservice and an increasing European export market.

Support for progressing to Full Assessment has been provided by The Co-operative Group, by way of a £20,000 donation from its Sustainable Fishing Fund.  The £200,000 Sustainable Fishing Fund was created in 2008 to improve the sustainability of UK fisheries.

The partnership arrangement with SSMG was a logical move given that much of Shetland’s mussel tonnage is sold through SSMG.

Chief executive of Seafood Shetland, Ruth Henderson, said: “We are delighted that we could proceed to Full Assessment, together with SSMG.

“Shetland’s mussel farming industry has been built on its outstanding reputation for product quality, with 3,698 metric tonnes produced in 2009, equating to 65 per cent of Scottish tonnage.

“We are very grateful for the financial support received through the LEADER programme, which supported the cost of Pre-Assessment.

“The generous donation by The Co-operative is very much appreciated and will assist us as we move to Full Assessment.”

Stephen Cameron, managing director of SSMG, continued: “By undergoing the MSC’s independent assessment process, we will provide our members with the opportunity to reach new markets at home and overseas; particularly in sectors seeking producers who can demonstrate their sustainable and responsible working practices.”

Claire Pescod, UK Fishery Outreach Manager for the MSC says: “I’m delighted that Seafood Shetland and the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group have decided to enter their fisheries for MSC assessment. This is the first Scottish enhanced fishery to enter the MSC programme.  It’s great to see such a large part of the Scottish mussel industry moving forward to prove their sustainability credentials.  I know that the UK retail and restaurant sectors will be delighted with the announcement and, if the fishery is successful, I look forward to choosing MSC certified Scottish mussels in the future.”