When I visited Walter, in March, the snowdrops were in flower, their delicate white blossoms nodding, as if in joy at the arrival of Spring. The quiet was only broken by otters splashing and swimming in the distance.
Tragedy destroyed this coastal idyll. ‘I was a mussel farmer. But then an invasive species arrived. Its shell was too thin to the able to be harvested. If you took them out of the water, they just fell apart. And there was no meat in them.’
‘Couldn’t you get rid of this new type of mussel?’ I asked.
‘It’s impossible. We removed tons and tons of them, but there are always a few that escape, clinging to ropes attached to boats.’
Thus ended much of Walter’s mussel-farming career. But he has moved on and is now a seaweed expert, putting this devastating experience to good use.
Walter recently founded the Scottish Seaweed Industry Association (SSIA). The SSIA is small at the moment, but Walter knows it is needed. ‘The seaweed industry is at its beginnings now, but challenges will come along as it grows. The popularity of seaweed as a food is just beginning and I want to make sure that its development takes place wisely. Thinking about the impact of seaweed collection on otters is important as is thinking about water quality, regulations, quality and standards. Challenges will come and if we are in a group we can handle them more thoughtfully than if we are isolated’ he says with a smile.
Links & Resources
Scottish Seaweed Industry Association
Muckairn Mussels Ltd
Aquaculture and seafood directory.
The Mussel Inn
Sea Fish Industry Authority
Shellfish Association of Great Britain
Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group
Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society Ltd
Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers