For anyone who has visited Mull for a holiday, you will know that the island, along with many other spots on the west coast of Scotland, has a booming industry growing shellfish on artificial reefs. Many of the Sea lochs also form excellent sheltered places for fish farming which has become an important source of income for locals.
These reefs are actually long sections of polypropylene rope which are seeded with mussel larvae and then suspended below a floating frame. These baby mussels then go on to filter the protected waters in the sea loch until they get to a size that’s ready for tables in the UK and other parts of Europe.
But it seems that even the waters around Mull aren’t immune from toxins being produced by algae building up in some of the lochs. According to specialist website Fishupdate, Loch Na Keal, Ulva and Loch a Chumhainn, a particularly pretty inlet which forms the shoreline for Dervaig, had to be closed earlier this month. Signs were put up warning casual beachcombers to steer clear of eating self-picked shellfish such as cockles, mussels or razor shells.
As the website reports, “Commercial shellfish harvesters in these areas have been contacted by the Council and steps taken to postpone harvesting until algae levels subside. It is a sensible precaution to avoid eating shellfish from these areas until further notice. Monitoring work is currently being undertaken by the council to evaluate this situation and when the situation subsides, the warning notices etc., will be removed.”
Sadly this is a problem that would have been unheard of in the past. But, due to a range of factors, including run-off from farmland, many coastal areas across the UK can now suffer these algal blooms, some of which produce toxins which can be harmful if they enter the human food chain.
Fortunately, with the monitoring undertaken by Argyll and Bute Council’s environmental health service, any raised levels of these naturally occurring algal toxins can be kept out of the food chain and still allow everyone to enjoy fresh produce from the seas around Mull.
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