The future’s bright, the future’s bivalve: ASSG annual conference 201626th October 2016
By Robin Shields, Aquaculture Innovation Manager at SAIC.
The Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers (ASSG) conference in Oban is a much-anticipated event in the UK aquaculture calendar. Indeed, it’s rare these days for an aquaculture conference to attract hard-working practitioners away from their production sites. Yet this year’s conference – ably organised by Roy Clarke, with proceedings kept on track by ASSG CEO Nick Lake – still managed it and was all the better for it.
Day one: celebrating 30 years
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the ASSG and day one of the conference was suitably reflective. Nick Turnbull’s highly entertaining and informative ‘milestones of an oyster grower’ speech was a personal highlight, particularly the spot-on cartoons from his then-schoolboy son about the travails of being a shellfish pioneer.
It wasn’t all about looking back however, with fascinating insights into current commercial operations and ambitions for mussel farming on Shetland, along with the pathway to commercialisation for a new oyster farming venture on Barra.
Rounding off day one was the now-famous ASSG conference dinner; a positive seafood-fest that featured produce from various ASSG members. Awards for ‘Best Scottish Shellfish’ were presented in a highly entertaining fashion by the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group’s Stephen Cameron, with thanks due to the Waterfront Fishouse Restaurant for looking after everyone so well on the night.
Day two: looking forward
If day one was about celebrating the Scottish industry’s achievements, day two was about looking forward, with valuable presentations from other shellfish-producing nations. Space prevents me from referring to all of the interesting topics covered, however suffice to say that product certification is recognised as a ‘must-have’ for shellfish produce moving forwards.
Also, there must surely be real scope to sustainably increase mussel production in Scotland when one sees the scale of the sector in New Zealand and South East Asia (full marks to Joe Franklin Jr. for making everyone laugh as they learned), armed with the types of advanced modelling tools developed in north east USA (thank you, Carter Newell).
On the subject of growing the Scottish shellfish industry, Gregg Arthur, Hatchery Manager at the NAFC Marine Centre, and Tom Ashton, Executive Director of Xelect, were on hand to present on SAIC-supported hatchery-based spat production and genetic stock improvement of blue mussels, proving once again that home-grown innovation has a key role to play in the future development of the industry.