Working together to maximise harvest potential

Last time I wrote we were facing bad weather and trying to get our workboat painted and back in the sea.  I can happily report than the interim period has seen some excellent weather up here in Shetland and progress has been much easier.  Sun is always nice but what we needed was less wind to work quickly and luckily we have had a fair bit of both calm weather and sunshine.
The workboat painting is done and the boat is now back in action.  The photos below show the before and after.  Maybe we should do a workboat makeover programme sometime but it certainly feels good to have her smartened up.
She will be out of the water again soon to have an extension put in the middle as we plan to add four metres to the boat in September.  As we have grown the farm, the boat is struggling to meet the demands put on her so this will be a big help.  I will hopefully have pictures of that later in the year.

 new mussel site

New mussel site

We quickly put her back to work to install a complete new site on the east side of Shetland at Dury Voe.  This involved laying 880m of headlines, 12 anchors and individually tying on 3000 dropper nets to (hopefully) catch lots of spat on.  We completed this job yesterday and so now we can only wait to see if we get any small mussels settle.  It is certainly not guaranteed and it is a significant cost sometimes putting in ropes that catch no spat at all.  I guess that's why they call it 'fishing' not 'catching' - but it’s not the easiest way to run a business
As I mentioned in my last blog the hatchery project is progressing well and some initial mussels have been selected and spawned.  In my next blog I would hope to have a better update and perhaps even some news on our first hand reared spat but it’s still early days.  If it goes well, we could have a much more controlled way to produce the baby mussels in the future, and that would be very welcome.
One of my co-members of Scottish Shellfish is David Niven who operates up in Unst (UK’s most northern isle of all) and the strong tidal conditions up there mean that he cannot catch enough spat on his ropes to fill his farm.  The mussels don’t seem to have enough time to settle on the ropes and probably get carried away in the tide too quickly.  As an Unst man he is not likely to give up that easily and so has been working with other farmers for a number of years in the cooperative to catch spat on their sites and transfer it to Unst. In the last couple of weeks, he has been coming down to our farm to take away some mid-sized shells for further fattening up on his sites in Unst.  Today we loaded 3.5 tonnes of mussels (see photo) which are heading up to Unst now on a ferry and will be back in the sea by tea time tonight.  With the good flow of water in Unst they will be full sized and ready to eat by Christmas.
These are two examples of how we can work as a cooperative to play to our strengths, in this case through sharing spat catching/rearing resources we can help all our farmers to maximise our potential and meet the future demand for Scottish Mussels.

 boat-before  boat-after

Boat before paint

Boat after paint