HomeScienceGeneticsScottish researchers follow trends for new insights into shellfish farming

Scottish researchers follow trends for new insights into shellfish farming

Increasing mussel production is part of the ambition of trade association Scotland Food and Drink to double Scottish food production by 2030.

Researchers in Scotland have therefore investigated how mussel larvae move to give mussel and other shellfish farmers important insights into where and how to farm them.

The discovery: it’s all about the flow.

The Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling used genetic testing of mussels at sample sites along the west coast of Scotland in combination with mathematical models to understand where mussels grow well.

Research in this area has so far been limited, says PhD student Ana Corrochano-Fraile. “Mussel farming has been a bit of a black box”,he said. “The larvae float in the water, we lay ropes in the sea and larvae appear there. If the stock goes down, we don’t know why. If the quality deteriorates, we don’t know why.”

The team found that mussel larvae move in the current, from south to north. “We found that in 30 days a cloud of larvae can move from the Scottish border at Stranraer to Islay [about 80 miles] for example. They then attach themselves to the substrate—anything stuck in the water, which could be ropes—and grow for a year and a half until they start to reproduce. The next generation of larvae is carried on the current from Islay to the Outer Hebrides in 30 days – that’s a lot further, because the current is faster there.”

She added: “Knowing where mussels come from and where they go tells us a lot about the best and worst locations for farms.”

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