Scottish researchers track currents to new insights into shellfish farming

Increasing mussel production is part of industry organization Scotland Food and Drink’s ambition to double Scotland’s food production by 2030.

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

The discovery: it’s all about the current.

The University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture used genetic testing of mussels at sample sites along Scotland’s west coast combined with mathematical modeling to understand where mussels grow well.

Research in this area has been limited up to now, according to PhD researcher Ana Corrochano-Fraile. “Mussel growing has been a bit of a black box,”he said. “The larvae float in the water, we put ropes at sea and larvae appear there. If the stock goes down, we don’t know why. If the quality goes down, we don’t know why.”

The team discovered that mussel larvae move in the currents, from south to north. “We found that, in 30 days, a cloud of larvae can move from the Scottish border near Stranraer up to Islay [about 80 miles] for example. They then attach to substrate – anything solid in the water, which could be ropes – and grow for one and a half years until they start reproducing. 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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