Mussels in the Moray Firth

The Common Mussel (Mytilus Edulis) is found in many places in the Moray Firth. They can form huge beds particularly in areas where conditions are good for larval settlement, and where there is plenty of food. The largest wild mussel fishery in Scotland is in the Dornoch Firth and run by Highland Fresh Mussels Ltd. on behalf of the Highland Council.  The fishery employs 4 staff, rising to 8 at busy harvesting periods, as well as supporting a number of jobs in shore based businesses. Income generated goes to the Tain Common Good Fund.

The mussel fishery has had a long association with the people of Tain. In 1612,ownership of the mussel scalps and the right to fish for mussels was bequeathed to the Royal Burgh of Tain by James VI of Scotland. The Dornoch Firth Mussels provided an important source of food during times of famine, and are today considered a highly desirable food item.

Approximately 60% of the mussels are exported directly to France. Much of the remainder is sold to two local companies in Tain, who clean and grade the mussels, pack them in 5kg bags and sell to customers across the UK. Mussels are extremely high in proteins, calcium and iron while being low in fat and calories. They are also excellent for your heart, containing the highest amount of Omega3’s of any shellfish.

The Dornoch Firth is regarded as an area of high ecological value. The Firth is virtually unaffected by industrial development and supports a wide range of marine and bird life. Around one third of the Firth lies within Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and forms part of the proposed Marine Special Area of Conservation. Dornoch Firth mussels are not farmed like most of the mussels sold in supermarkets. The Fishery harvest wild beds that regenerate naturally and take great care to ensure these are not over-fished. Stock surveys are carried out annually using a variety of techniques including underwater cameras. These then determine the harvest levels for the coming year.

Fisheries Development Officer, The Highland Council