Scotland: first ever annual decline in production of mussels – Fishupdate.com

Scotland: first ever annual decline in production of mussels Published:  12 June, 2006

THE shellfish farming industry has warned that more environmental protection is required to enable their industry to thrive, following the first ever annual decline in the production of mussels in Scotland. Figures released by the Executive’s Fisheries Research Services, show that while production of most other species increased, Pacific oyster production fell by 14% and mussel production, the largest part of the farmed shellfish sector, fell by 2%. Production of mussels fell from 4,223 tonnes in 2004, to 4,135 tonnes in 2005. Doug McLeod, chairman of the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers, said that environmental factors, and lack of public sector investment, were hampering the growth of a potentially significant industry.

Mr McLeod said: “It is disappointing that for the first time in living memory annual production of mussels has fallen compared with the previous year. There is a limitation on the sites mussel farmers can use and over the past year there were a few microbiological problems and a few toxin outbreaks which caused closures of some mussel farming areas. We are trying to protect the quality of coastal waters, but we are apprehensive about the amount of investment that is planned in water treatment works, because if this is not done properly the quality of coastal waters will decline.”

Shellfish farmers have already lobbied the Executive over the level of funding Scottish Water is allowed to invest. Their fear is that there will not be enough money to ensure that shellfish growing areas are protected from sewage from onshore settlements. Doug McLeod said: “We are trying to put together some guidance for local authorities and for Scottish Water which will, we hope guide their investment and planning decisions. The local authorities are in the process of taking over responsibility for planning in coastal waters from the Crown Estate. We want to inform them about the carrying capacity of loch areas, and which areas should have water treatment investment. We would also like to have some say when water treatment works are being planned for areas which have not had them before, and where these are allowed to be sited and have their outfalls. We would also like Scottish Water to bring forward some of their water treatment investment plans. The Taynuilt plant for example is due for investment in 2008. It would help shellfish farmers if this was brought forward to the 2006/07 financial year.”

The industry has also sought public sector investment in facilities such as depuration plants, transport and marketing to allow the industry to expand. Doug Mcleod said the shellfish farming industry had huge potential, but seemed unable to make the quantum leap required for this to be realised. He explained: “Shellfish farming in Scotland has held great potential ever since it started, but for some reason it has never moved onto the next level of production and realised that potential. The value of production at the moment is around £10m and it provides 150 full-time and 253 part-time jobs. That is an impressive level of employment when you consider that many shellfish farmers combine the work with other jobs. On the Mediterranean coast of France shellfish production went from almost zero to 15,000 tonnes in 10 years. The Executive has said that the Scottish industry could expand 100-fold without damaging the environment, but we do not seem to be able to make that shift. This is an industry that is 100% natural, there are no artificial feeds or additives, and it could provide significant employment in remote areas well into the future,” said Doug McLeod.

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