First spat from mussel hatchery goes to sea
THE first mussel spat reared at the Scottish Shellfish Hatchery Stepping Stone project in Shetland was transferred to on-growing sites at sea in October.
The milestone was announced by Daniel Cowing, aquaculture scientist and technician at the NAFC Marine Centre, and Michael Tait, chairman of the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group, at the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers’ annual conference in Oban.
There, industry members were given an update on the £1.7 million, 30-month collaboration which also involves Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.
‘We’re not yet achieving the quantities we would like but we are now seeing larvae develop through to spat stage and settle on to ropes, which is a major advance in itself,’ said Cowing.
‘The next step will be taking the ropes offshore, where the spat will be closely monitored over a growing period of two years.’
Tait said: ‘It’s a positive position in which to end what has been a challenging but ultimately insightful first year. We’ve learned lots about feed requirements and spawning. Now the key focus is on survivability and bacteriology. Get that right and the implications for the industry are very exciting.’
The mussel industry is now estimated to be worth more than £10 million a year in Scotland. A commercial scale hatchery would see this value increase further, resulting in higher and more reliable yields, new jobs and greater export potential.
Above: Hatchery reared mussel spat taken off a settlement rope and placed under a microscope slide