A LOCAL family-owned aquaculture company is to invest £3 million into expanding its business after securing almost £1 million of European funding.
Walls based Shetland Mussels is one of five local businesses and organisations that have been awarded grant funding from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
Michael Tait of Shetland Mussels said the investment planned over the next two years will go a long towards helping Scotland to achieve an industry production target of 21,000 tonnes of farmed mussel by 2030.
“We are looking at new areas in which we can operate for seed collection, including getting a new boat that can help us operating in different areas in the future,” Tait said.
“One of the key objectives for the industry is trying to get more resilient and more reliable in the seed production so that we can grow the mussels.
“The growing part is easy, but the seed collection is proving to be a bit trickier. We are involved in a hatchery project, but this is for wild seed collection and using different areas to do that.”
Around three quarters of the 8,000 tonnes of the mussels currently farmed in Scotland are grown on ropes in Shetland waters.
Another main beneficiary under the latest round of EMFF money is Scalloway’s Shetland Seafood Quality Control (SSQC).
The organisation, based at the NAFC Marine Centre, is to receive £295,980 towards a new aquaculture support vessel.
Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA), meanwhile, has been awarded £41,869 to equip 13 inshore fishing vessels with autopilot systems. In a further award, the SFA is also to receive £12,751 that will go towards safety equipment for vessels under ten metres.
Finally, the NAFC Marine Centre is to receive £9,550 to help with forklift training for the aquaculture industry.
In total, just over £1.3 million of a Scotland-wide allocation of £4.8 million will go towards the seafood sector in Shetland.
The funding includes £400,000 to support a voluntary safety training project for fishermen in locations across Scotland.
Fisheries secretary Fergus Ewing said: “This seventh round of EMFF grants will provide a vital financial ‘leg-up’ to projects from the Shetland Islands to Dumfries and Galloway – with the nearly £5 million invested helping to support the whole fisheries supply chain to reach into new markets, and improving the overall quality of Scottish produce.
“The new funding will also help to support the growth potential of Scotland’s shellfish sector, reinforce the importance of training, health and welfare within salmon aquaculture and a ground-breaking initiative to assess the health of our iconic wild salmon stocks.
“We are now in a period of great uncertainty for our coastal communities, so I’m sure they will welcome this real and practical support from the Scottish Government and European Union.
“At the moment we still don’t know what, if anything, will replace the EMFF after Brexit. The UK Government must provide clarity on that for our fishermen as soon as possible.”