Blue mussel fisheries representing the entire bottom grown mussel landings of Ireland has entered the Marine Stewardship Council assessment.

The cross-border fisheries from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland cover both collection and cultivation and together produce over 40,000MT of mussel each year.

The mussel fishery includes both mussel seed (or “spat”) collection and the eventual re-laying and on-growing that takes place in loughs (Irish lochs) and bays across the island. Seed collection takes place off the east coast of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland using dredges designed to skim the upper layer of mud that gathers around aggregations of juvenile mussels with minimal impact to the underlying seabed.

Bottom-grown mussels are a key contributor to the fisheries sector in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland both in terms of export volume and value as well as being a key employer in the marine sector, providing work for nearly 700 people across Ireland.

Donal Maguire, Chairman of the Bottom Grown Mussel Consultative Forum said: “MSC certification of Irish bottom grown mussels will maintain premium market access for Ireland’s top quality mussels. This is an environmentally aware sector with great scope for expansion and MSC certification will underpin the industry, improving consumer and investor confidence.”

Claire Pescod, UK and Irish Fisheries Outreach Manager for the MSC said: “This is great news for Ireland. I’m delighted that this sector has entered MSC assessment on such a large scale. With the entire bottom grown mussel sector in assessment this is a great step for Irish mussels towards proving their sustainability credentials. I wish these fisheries every success in their assessment and I look forward to being able choose MSC certified Irish mussels.”

Bord Iascaigh Mara and the Aquaculture Initiative are the clients for this assessment, respectively representing the licence holders and vessels based in the Republic of Ireland and the licence holders and vessels in Northern Ireland. If successful, their two fisheries will be able to display the MSC ecolabel on their products sold across the Ireland and exported across Europe and the US.

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