so much to sea


From pure, clean water which is rich in feed, Shetland successfully grows rope-grown mussels, with thinner shells and a higher meat content than mussels from the sea bed. Some 69 per cent of Scotland's farmed mussels are produced in Shetland.

The Shetland mussel industry is worth £5.1 million to the local economy and has been built on its outstanding reputation for quality, with 4,340 tonnes produced in 2012.

The industry employs 132 people locally.


  • Mussels are bivalves which means they have two shells
  • Mussels suck up to 50 litres of water a day
  • In rope grown mussels, the spat (baby mussels) settles naturally onto ropes which are suspended from lines anchored in voes and other sheltered areas around Shetland
  • The orange meats are the females; white meats are the males – they both taste the same.


  • Mussels spawn
  • Spat or larvae look for somewhere to settle and if conditions are favourable they will settle on droppers, ropes that mussel farmers have put in the sea which are hanging from a buoy
  • After 2 – 3 years, the mussels should be ready to harvest
  • Mussels that are undersized are collected re-socked on the site so that they can keep on growing until they reach market size
  • If the spat is too thick on a rope, the mussel farmer will remove it, and replace at a lower density (this process is called ‘thinning’)
  • Boats use davits to pull the mussel line up to a working height
  • Mussel ropes are pulled through a stripping machine and usually the mussels are declumped, given a preliminary wash, graded and put into one tonne bags or 1,000 litre bins on the boat, or taken to the shore base for grading.
  • Debyssing, grading by machine and packing takes place at the shore base
  • Packed into mesh bags to suit customer specifications or 25 kilo poly boxes, and iced
  • Exported daily from Shetland to Glasgow where they are distributed around the UK and Europe.

Shetland biotoxin activity bulletin



Two oyster species are grown from seed in Shetland - the Pacific and the Common European flat oyster. The Pacific is slower growing in Shetland's colder waters but the flesh is firm and tastier than those grown in tropical climates. Grown either in baskets, in bags fastened onto trestles, or on the sea bed on racks, oysters are available by mail order and are dispatched and delivered in peak condition.