The competition for Scotland's tastiest bivalves is an eagerly anticipated part of the event. Image: Rob Fletcher.

Oban set for shellfish event

The Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers (ASSG) will celebrate its 30th anniversary tomorrow with a cake-cutting ceremony at their annual conference in Oban’s Corran Halls.

Published Last updated

Founding director Walter Speirs and current directors Nick Turnbull and David Attwood, all well-known local shellfish farmers, will do the cake-cutting honours.

Opening the two-day conference, Gareth Baird, Crown Estate Commissioner for Scotland, will reflect on the relationship between ASSG and The Crown Estate, which has enabled the industry to develop into the flourishing and profitable entity it is today.

Stephen Cameron, head of the SSMG, at last year's event. Image: Rob Fletcher.

He is followed by a keenly-fought competition to identify Scotland’s best mussels and oysters, with shellfish farmers vying to win the coveted titles. The producers have to wait until the evening to discover who has won, with prizes awarded at the annual seafood dinner at Oban’s Fishhouse Restaurant.

The first day continues with an investigation by Michael Tate, MD of Shetland Mussels Ltd, into where the industry has room to grow and by Ian Wright of Traighe Mhor Oysters into investments and assets to secure business development.

Day two focuses on future opportunities for shellfish businesses, with Gregg Arthur from the North Atlantic Fisheries College (NAFC) speaking about the college’s mussel hatchery project, which aims to help secure future seed supplies. Dr Tom Aston, from Xelect Ltd, discusses genetic selection opportunities for the industry and questions whether farmers are cultivating the right stock.

Dr Gavin Burnell from University College Cork in Ireland, looks at shellfish as part of integrated aquaculture projects, and outlines associated production possibilities. Environmental stewardship is covered by Morven Robertson, Friend of the Sea project development officer for the UK.

The session continues with a look at Scottish shellfish on the international stage, with guest speakers from the USA and New Zealand taking to the floor.

Dr Carter Newell, of Pemaquid Mussel Farms, relates developments in the USA to those in Scotland, whilst Joe Franklin Jnr, of Quality Equipment Ltd, gives delegates an insight into the growth potential of the global mussel industry.

Dennis Overton, chair of Scotland Food and Drink’s Vision 2030 group, will close the conference by setting out the strategy’s implications for shellfish producers.

The event includes the ASSG AGM and features a host of trade stands, with representatives from many suppliers of shellfish farming equipment.

Dr Nick Lake, CEO of the ASSG, said: "Our annual conference is well supported by shellfish growers, equipment suppliers, regulators and the Scottish Government, with everyone coming together to discuss achievements and to look at opportunities and areas for collaboration, not just in Scotland but in the wider world.

“It is particularly exciting this year to celebrate the longevity of the ASSG, which has been helping shellfish farmers for 30 years now.

“During that time, Scotland has developed an enviable reputation for the quality of its cultivated shellfish, and in particular, the way in which it has developed sustainably in the Highlands and Islands.

“I look forward to welcoming everyone to our birthday conference, and to congratulating this year’s shellfish competition winners!”