Summer Algal Bloom

July 2013 has seen an intense bloom of summer time algae. Whilst algae naturally contain important food for the marine eco-systems - and is mostly welcomed by mussel farmers - this particular algae is called Dinophysis and is not so welcome.

As mussels and other bivalve shellfish feed, their stomach sacks become full of this rich plankton. When these levels reach a certain limit in shellfish, it can, when consumed, result in sickness and diarrhoea.

As the largest rope-grown mussel farm in the UK, it goes without saying that we want to make sure that customers continue to enjoy eating shellfish without any risk to health. The FSAS (Food Standards Agency Scotland) have a special sampling procedure (which is probably amongst the best in the world) to make sure that areas are sampled frequently, and if any risks are detected, that the area is closed down until the mussels naturally purge themselves. You can keep track of what is happening throughout Scotland by clicking on the following link; www.food.gov.uk/enforcement/monitoring/shellfish/algaltoxin/. We receive frequent updates, as they are reported, and we use that information to select sites for harvest.

When we saw the limits of plankton rising, and several sites being closed down recently, we decided, as a precaution, that we should stop harvesting for a few weeks until the mussels naturally recover to their normal excellent condition.

Naturally, we never want to let our customers down, and this is the first time we have completely stopped harvesting in recent years.  The feedback we have received from our customers is that they are very supportive of that decision, which gives them confidence and assurance in our processes.

Work on a mussel farm certainly doesn’t stop because we are not harvesting, we use the time to carry out maintenance and improvements to our boats, factory and staff facilities.

Meantime, the mussels are feeding away quite happily and will recover naturally themselves within a few weeks, when we will be able to re-commence harvesting as the mussels approach their best condition of the year.