Trial could lead to Scotland’s first commercial shellfish hatchery The 30 month project was launched by The Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and with backing from the Scottish Government, University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and The Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group (SSMG), in Edinburgh, 18 November.
The hatchery will open at Scalloway’s NAFC Marine Centre next spring to test the commercial feasibility of producing spat (baby mussels), which could be available by the summer.
Mussel production in Scotland reached its highest ever level in 2014, with Shetland accounting for almost 80 per cent of production.
Deputy First Minister of Scotland, John Swinney, who was keynote speaker at the launch, said: “Scotland’s aquaculture industry makes a vital contribution to our economy. It generates economic activity in Scotland worth £1.86 billion every year and creates thousands of jobs in often very remote areas.
“The Scottish Government is fully supportive of the sustainable growth of aquaculture, underpinned by world-leading science, research and innovation and the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre has a key role in proactively driving innovation.
“I welcome this announcement of an innovative project to develop Scotland’s first commercial mussel hatchery. This stepping-stone initiative is crucial to our shellfish industry, enhancing the opportunity for significant future growth.”
HIE’s head of food and drink, Elaine Jamieson said: “The shellfish industry clearly has ambition to increase production, and this collaborative research project has the potential to strengthen Scotland’s position in a growing international market.
“The Highlands and Islands has a global reputation in aquaculture and our produce is renowned for its high quality. We believe the project will be a catalyst to significantly improving productivity and output.
“The vast majority of our shellfish producers are located in coastal communities in the north and west of Scotland, so in addition to supporting growth in the food and drink sector, this project will benefit communities and create new jobs in some of our more remote areas.”
University of the Highlands and Islands Deputy Principal, Dr Crichton Lang, said: “The applied research made possible by this hatchery project will look at aspects the industry considers important to commercial success. As such, the research could make a demonstrable impact on coastal communities and the shellfish industry in Scotland, and we are delighted to be part of this collaboration.”
Alongside the pilot hatchery, a research and development programme working in parallel with other institutions will explore new technologies to increase the yield of farmed mussels.
The hatchery would allow spat from mussels farmed around Scotland to be grown in controlled conditions that would offer “greater reliability and planning” to shellfish farmers.
Heather Jones, CEO of the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre, said: “Developing secure health-certified spat production systems is a Priority Innovation Action for SAIC, and we’re very pleased to drive such an initiative forward and co-fund this stepping stone to a commercial hatchery project. In bringing together academic expertise and industry ambition, this transformative project could deliver measurable economic growth in a key Scottish sector.”
Michael Tait, Chairman of SSMG, said: “Having a more reliable source of spat will help shellfish producers in Scotland meet the industry’s shellfish production target of 13,000 tonnes by 2020. In addition, the new technologies and processes permitted by the SAIC-sponsored research could allow our members to generate increased and more reliable yields, and help them target new export markets. This announcement is a milestone for the industry.”
Dr Beth Mouat, head of marine science and technology at NAFC, said: “This is an excellent example of how the expertise and facilities here at NAFC can be used to support local industry and provide community benefits.
“Through close working with our industry partners and the wider academic community we can help to address some of the most pressing issues affecting the seafood sector, which is such a vital part of Shetland’s economy.”
The announcement of the project follows on from a study tour to New Zealand and Tasmania earlier this year by SSMG, NAFC Marine Centre UHI and the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre. Visits included the Cawthron Institute, SPATNZ hatchery and Spring Bay Seafoods’ commercial hatchery, whose experiences will inform the planning and establishment of the Scottish hatchery.