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Caspian Shellfish Expansion

22nd December 2004

A Sutherland shellfish company who partially moved from creel fishing to mussel farming in 2003 have been so encouraged by the potential of their new venture that they are now turning their full attention to mussel farming.

Caspian Shellfish, owned by Charles and Annette Mackay and Graeme Gunn, is expanding to increase their production of mussels to meet the increasing demand both in Scotland and throughout Europe.

The company's original development in 2003 involved the purchase of 5 longlines for mussels, grading equipment, a service boat and modifications to their existing creel boat. This further diversification into mussel farming includes the purchase of another four longlines and the construction of a depuration/dispatch centre.

The depuration facility will allow Caspian Shellfish to achieve a substantially higher market price for their produce and satisfy the requirements of the European market.

It is likely that a European Union directive will come into force within the next few years, requiring shellfish to be depurated regardless of the quality of water they are produced in. Having this facility in North West Sutherland in advance of this directive will allow producers in the area to comply with the EU requirements when they come into force.

The facility will be made available to other shellfish producers in the area, with several local producers supporting the facility, stating they would make use of it.

Angela Mackay, who runs Kyle of Tongue Oysters, and has been growing oysters in the Kyle for over a decade believes this facility will undoubtedly benefit her own business and other shellfish growers in the area, guaranteeing them top quality produce with consumer safety.

Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise (CASE) have awarded Caspian Shellfish 18,400 to help meet the costs of the 122,400 project and European Union funds of 43,000 - under the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) scheme - have also been secured for the project.

Commenting on the latest development Graeme Gunn from Caspian Shellfish, said: "For us to compete effectively we have to be able to keep up to date with European regulations. They affect not just the demand for our products but the prices we can achieve for them.

"The new depuration facility will not only benefit our company but other shellfish producers throughout the area. We are very grateful for the help we have received from CASE, the FIFG Scheme and the Royal Bank of Scotland"

Fiona Paton, a development manager with CASE, said: "This project meets the local enterprise company's targets of helping companies to be globally competitive, improving efficiencies and assisting businesses in the food and drink industry, a key sector in the Highlands and Islands.

"The development is also in a rural area of North West Sutherland where there are few alternative employment options. Caspian Shellfish currently employs three full time and one part time member of staff and as a result of this development the number employed will increase to five full time posts.

"Use of the depuration facility may also allow other local businesses to expand as the demand for their products in the European market increases."