|19 November 2015|

The Scottish shellfish industry has received a major boost after it was announced a new trial could lead to the country’s first commercial hatchery.

The Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise have announced a trial to test the commercial viability of a mussel hatchery in Scotland. The 30-month project could lead to higher productivity in the shellfish industry and support rural businesses and jobs.

Other key partners in the hatchery project include the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group, the University of the Highlands and Islands and the Scottish Government.

Shellfish production is a growing industry in Scotland, supporting over 500 jobs across the supply chain, many in rural areas. Mussel production in Scotland reached its highest-ever level in 2014, with Shetland accounting for almost 80% of production.

There is capacity and demand to raise production substantially, if the industry can address issues such as the availability of mussel spat (baby mussels). The establishment of a commercial hatchery to produce spat would help to resolve this issue, providing Scottish producers with a reliable supply of spat (and potentially other juvenile shellfish).

The new project was announced at SAIC’s first annual conference, held in Edinburgh, where the deputy first minister of Scotland, John Swinney, was the keynote speaker. He 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.”

Funding support for the £1.9 million project includes contributions from the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group, the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre, Xelect and the academic partners, as well as significant investment from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Government.

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.“