Bring on the Spring!

By Michael Tait

Spring is looking like it might actually happen in Shetland soon but it feels a long time coming after a long Shetland Winter. The price we pay for the better weather and longer days? Dealing with the pressure of keeping up with all the deadlines that nature sets us to keep our farming on track.

Harvesting has been ongoing all winter and we will continue with that right through the spring and summer to keep our customers supplied. The warmer weather heralds the fact that there are now many more jobs that need completed too.

We have been busy all winter preparing our ropes ashore, as they have been harvested, and they are now all stored in bags near our piers ready to deploy when the sea water warms up. This warming of the sea takes another month or so in Shetland but once the temperature is high enough we will have kilometres of ropes to tie on (by hand) at our spat collection sites. All going well, these ropes will provide a great habitat for small mussels to settle onto and if last year is anything to go by we should see several million shells settle by the end of the summer.

Before we can start that thought, we have to move the small shells we caught last year to make space. This cannot be done till they are about 12 months old as we need to wait till they are large enough to handle. So last year’s shells are now about 5-10mm long and more or less big enough to strip from their original ropes and spread them out onto the growing ropes which give them more space and thus access to food.

We can reseed over 10km of rope per day and this involves dispensing mussels around the special growing rope (which has lots of loops to help the mussels attach with their bysses) and then we enclose them in a cotton socking. This socking biodegrades but not before the mussels have had enough time to attach to the rope. It’s a very useful system for us mussel farmers to use and gives us the ability to choose how many mussels we grow on each rope. Once on the grower ropes the mussels will take another 18 months to reach market size.

But back to this season and as you can see in the photo below we have also found the time to get our harvest boat painted and some new lines laid at our Brindister operation on the Westside of Shetland.

I guess I have to admit Shetland winters are not all bad and despite being long, cold and dark – you do sometimes get some fantastic conditions to enjoy the view both above and below the water. Even with the stunning frosty conditions though – I think we are definitely ready for spring now. Bring it on.

Pegasus after annual paint up

New mussel lines on a snowy day at Brindister, Shetland

Picture of our moorings at 4m deep, easy to see with the clear water