Shellfish businesses benefit from resilience fund
Seafood resilience funding has helped cover some of the costs of maintaining small shellfish businesses impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and EU Exit.
We caught up with some businesses who have benefitted from this support.
Lismore Shellfish on the Island of Lismore is a family run business which would regularly sell loads containing around 6,500 oysters onto a larger business for further distribution.
With hospitality closures and seafood businesses losing access to their usual markets due to the pandemic, Lismore Shellfish saw its sales drop.
Alan McFadyen who runs Lismore Shellfish with his brother in law Geoff Hawkes explained:
“The last year has been really challenging. When the lockdown came in, our sales completely disappeared and then when we did eventually open up in July there was very little demand so we had to just focus our efforts locally. We sold small amounts of oysters through local deliveries, managed to get a few loads away at the end of the year, and then that was us again until the end of March.
“This year so far we’ve only managed to get one load away. It’s been really tough across the supply chain because markets just dried up. We’ve all had to adapt to change and we’ve seen our main customer now focusing on more local and UK deliveries.”
Lismore Shellfish applied for funding through last year’s Aquaculture Hardship Fund and the Seafood Producers Resilience Fund which closed in April, to cover some of the costs of maintaining its oysters which it grows using the bag and trestle method.
“The funding has been very important as it’s helped us buy more seed to continue to grow our stock. We have to buy oyster seed and grow it for two to three years, so if you miss a rotation it has a real impact on our sales.”
Uig Seafare Limited has been operating in West Loch Roag on the Isle of Lewis since 2004, initially selling to wholesale buyers on the mainland and harvesting, grading and packing the mussels into 5kg bags.
At the end of 2018 the business started selling market size mussels to another company who took on the harvesting, grading and packing for the business. The next market ready mussels were due to be harvested by the bigger company in autumn 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic affected plans.
Uig Seafare Limited is another of the 26 small aquaculture businesses to benefit from funding through the Seafood Producers Resilience Fund.
Company owner Julie Smith said: “All of our mussels are meant for the domestic retail market, but since no-one was going out to eat, the company due to harvest our stock no longer had enough orders to be able to buy our mussels.
“While we’ve still had mussels growing, the worry has been that they will become fouled with barnacles, and then even though the mussel meat will be good, it could be very hard to sell as the market demands clean shells.
“The weight of the steadily growing mussels has also meant we have to spend a few thousand pounds on 100 extra buoys to hold up the increasing weight and to stop the lines from sinking.
“We haven`t had any income from the mussels since February 2019, so the funding has been a huge help with maintenance costs both for the mussel lines and the boat and equipment.”
More information on recipients of the Seafood Producers Resilience Fund is on the Scottish Government website: Seafood Producers Resilience Fund: beneficiaries – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)