Scottish mussel hatchery trial to be launched
Scotland's first commercial mussel hatchery is to be set up in Shetland next month.
Those behind the £1.9m project claim it could lead to higher productivity in the shellfish industry and support rural businesses and jobs.
The trial was announced by the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Partners include the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group and the University of the Highlands and Islands.
The Scottish government is also backing it.
Mussel production in Scotland reached its highest-ever level in 2014, with Shetland accounting for almost 80% of the 7,600 tonnes produced.
The 30-month project includes establishing a pilot-scale hatchery at the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway, Shetland.
The first spat (baby mussels) could be produced as early as next summer, according to organisers.
There will also be a research and development programme to look at ways of increasing farmed mussel yields in Scotland.
The project partners said production could be raised "substantially" if there were a reliable supply of spat (baby mussels) for Scottish producers.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: "Scotland's aquaculture industry makes a vital contribution to our economy.
"It generates economic activity in Scotland worth £1.86bn every year and creates thousands of jobs in often very remote areas.
"The Scottish government is fully supportive of the sustainable growth of aquaculture, underpinned by world-leading science, research and innovation and the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre has a key role in proactively driving innovation.
"This stepping-stone initiative is crucial to our shellfish industry, enhancing the opportunity for significant future growth."