Judith Vajk of Caledonian Oysters, left, and Douglas Wilson of Inverlussa, were among the three winners of last year's contest to find the best oysters and mussels. They are pictured with Elaine Jamieson of HIE, which sponsors the competition. Photo: FFE.

A lot on the plate at Scottish shellfish conference

Scotland’s rural affairs minister, Mairi Gougeon, will today open the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers’ (ASSG) annual conference at the Corran Halls, Oban.

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The two-day conference, which begins at noon, features speakers from the UK, USA, Sweden, the Netherlands and Guernsey. Subjects include the environmental benefits of shellfish production, Britain’s historic love affair with the oyster, and rapid diagnosis of biotoxins.

Dr Tim Bean of Edinburgh University’s Roslin Institute will talk about selecting the best shellfish for production, and the opportunities for demand driven industry research will be addressed by Gregg Arthur from NAFC Marine Centre in Shetland and Michael Tait, co-owner of Shetland Mussels Ltd and chair of the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group.

Nick Lake: Conference is an opportunity for policy makers and government to engage with the sector.

Best shellfish

The annual Best Scottish Shellfish competition is also part of the event. Shellfish farmer and aquaculture journalist Nicki Holmyard, Ben Wright from Wright Brothers restaurants in London, and Highlands and Islands (HIE) food and drink policy chief Elaine Jamieson will judge which are the country’s best oysters and mussels.

Judging takes place at the beginning of the conference and the winners will be announced at the ASSG’s annual dinner at the Fishouse Restaurant in Oban this evening. The winners receive specially designed plates.

“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 ASSG executive director Nick 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 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. In the past few years the raffle has raised several thousand pounds for the RNLI.