SCOTLAND’S mussel and oyster farmers will descend on Oban this week for the annual shellfish conference, which will be officially opened by Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform.
The minister will be speaking about the importance of protecting and enhancing Scotland’s water environment, new permitted development rights for shellfish farms, and plans for a real time water classification pilot in Shetland in 2019.
Another highlight of the two-day conference, organised by the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers (ASSG) and held at the Corran Halls in Oban, will be the annual Best Scottish Shellfish competition.
The results of this eagerly fought contest, sponsored by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), will be announced at the annual dinner at the Fishouse Restaurant, and the winners presented with specially designed plates from Richard Bramble.
The competition is judged by shellfish farmer and industry journalist Nicki Holmyard and her team – local seafood entrepreneur John Ogden, editor of Fish Farmer Jenny Hjul, and head of food and drink policy for HIE Elaine Jamieson.
The conference includes a session covering the social and environmental perspectives of shellfish farming, with Baukje de Roos from the Rowett Institute, Aberdeen, talking about the role shellfish can play in the health of the nation, and Morven Robertson from the Blue Marine Foundation explaining the environmental benefits of native oyster production.
Several international speakers also grace the stage on the first day, with Asa Strand from Gothenberg University talking about Swedish mussel production and seed supply, Martina Ferriera Novio from the National Association of Manufacturers of Canned Fish and Shellfish (ANFACO) in Vigo, speaking about the Spanish mussel industry, and Australian Col Bridges looking at oyster developments and technology.
Day two opens with Amanda Bryan, chair of Crown Estate Scotland, talking about the organisation’s role as landlord in the development of marine industries.
A session on environment and stewardship follows, with Adam Hughes from the SAMS/UHI aquaculture hub talking about the wider natural capital benefits of shellfish production, Nicolas Chopin from Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) in Ireland on the management of Irish mussel seed stock, and Mathew Service from the agri-food and biosciences institute AFBINI in Northern Ireland, examining the practical role of shellfish in maintaining coastal water quality.
The final conference session covers recent developments in the Scottish industry, with Richard Slaski, executive director of the Scottish Aquaculture Research Forum (SARF), talking about shellfish research and the outlook for future funding, Michael Tate from the Stepping Stone hatchery project in Shetland outlining the constraints and opportunities for mussel seed, and Eleanor Adamson from the Fishmongers’ Company looking at how targeted philanthropy can help engagement with the UK shellfish sector.
Following her role the previous day as a shellfish judge, Elaine Jamieson will explain HIE’s role in securing business opportunities for the sector. The event will be drawn to a conclusion by ASSG chief executive Nick Lake.
The conference is enhanced by a trade exhibition, with many local, national and international companies represented, and a raffle in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, with local crew receiving the proceeds at the start of the second day.
‘Our annual conference is always well attended and brings shellfish farmers and allied industries into the heart of shellfish farming country for two days of lively dialogue, discussion and debate,’ said Lake.
‘This also presents the opportunity for policy makers and government to engage with what is a rural and expanding sector with proven potential to contribute to the economic success of coastal communities and safeguard the marine environment.’
The ASSG conference takes place on October 4-5 at the Corran Halls, Oban.
Picture: Environment minister Roseanna Cunningham