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Mussel harvesting re-starts

Stephen Wilson, boatman at Shetland Mussels Ltd getting ready to release a mussel dropper for harvest in Vaila Sound, Walls.

THE Shetland mussel farming industry is slowly getting back into production with nine of 20 zones now open for harvesting again.

The industry was closed between July and October following an outbreak of shellfish poisoning that left around 70 people in the south east of England suffering from sickness and diarrhoea.

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The algal bloom responsible for diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP) is a common and natural phenomenon caused by warm temperatures and reduced water flow.

Chief executive of Seafood Shetland Ruth Henderson said: “The lack of harvesting over the summer months means that the mussels have grown well with an even higher meat content than usual.

“Over the next few weeks, the producers hope to get back to full harvesting, in order to meet current customer demand. They will also be working hard to regain business that may have been lost to other suppliers as a result of the disruption in supply.”

During the closures, mussel producers worked closely with Shetland Seafood Quality Control (SSQC) to develop proficient toxin screening via shellfish poisoning test kits.

The new screening kits, currently being trialled, will provide mussel farmers with a positive or negative toxin result on the day the sample is taken.

The new testing will be adopted across the entire Shetland mussel industry, offering customers added assurance that the safety of the product is beyond question.

The Shetland mussel industry is worth £5.1 million to the local economy with 4,340 tonnes produced in 2012, representing 69 per cent of Scottish production.

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