Shellfish industry descends on Oban

The Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers’ (ASSG) annual conference in Oban will welcome an international audience today, with delegates coming from as far afield as New Zealand, North America and Turkey.
Opening the two-day event, Dr Aileen McLeod (pictured), Minster for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, addressed the significance and reputation of this growing sector to Scotland.
‘The shellfish sector is very important to Scotland, both economically and socially, and makes a key contribution to our most remote rural and island communities which depend on aquaculture as an economic mainstay,’ she said.
‘The Scottish shellfish industry reported their highest ever mussel production this year at 7,683 tonnes, up 14 per cent, with employment levels also increasing by four per cent year-on-year.
The Scottish government warmly welcomes these figures, which highlight the continued sustainable growth of the sector and indicates the significant further potential which exists.’
James Withers, CEO of Scotland Food and Drink, will look at the importance of cultivated shellfish as part of Scotland’s Larder, while Stephen Cameron, CEO of the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group, will speak about the scope for the sector to compete in the value added sector.
John Holmyard of Offshore Shellfish will outline the risks and challenges of volume mussel production, Lindsay Angus of Cribba Sound in Shetland will look at the need for mussel seed to help grow the industry, and David Attwood from Loch Fyne Oysters will talk about expanding Scottish oyster production.
The role of the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre in helping the industry to innovate will be covered by its chief executive, Heather Jones.
Building safeguards for the industry is the subject of day two, when Dr Cath McLeod from Seafood Safety Assessment will look at the need for biotoxin monitoring, Andrew Turner from CEFAS will talk about biotoxin test kits, Adrian MacLeod from SAMS will speak about biosecurity, and Jennifer Howie from Food Standards Scotland will outline the Scottish approach to shellfish safety.
On the subject of shellfish as a high quality food, Alan Stevenson from SAOS will look at lessons to be learned from other primary producing sectors, and Patrick Blow from Cowrie Associates, and a consultant to Marks & Spencer, will examine whether volume production of cultivated seafood supply is worthwhile.
A highlight of the conference is the annual ‘best shellfish’ competition, which is being judged this year by Patrick Blow, former ASSG chair and shellfish expert Doug McLeod, and Oban’s top shellfish vendor and sometime seafood restaurateur John Ogden.
The competition is a closely fought event, and the results are anxiously awaited by the contestants. This year they will have a little longer to wait as the results will not be announced until the evening, during a seafood extravaganza dinner at the Waterfront Fishhouse restaurant. The winners will proudly display their trophies at the start of the second day.
Dr Nick Lake, CEO of the ASSG said: ‘Our annual conference is always seen as an event for shellfish growers to come together to discuss the achievements of the industry and to see where further opportunities may lie.
‘Scottish cultivated shellfish is considered to be some of the finest seafood in the world, and our industry has great potential to expand sustainably in the Highlands and Islands.
‘Oban has always hosted this event in a relaxed atmosphere with growers, supply companies and regulatory bodies joining with the Scottish government to enjoy the best of Scottish shellfish.
‘With 2015 being Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, the Conference looks set to be both productive and enjoyable!’