European mussel production good this year

Bivalves are becoming a very popular seafood item. The environmentally sensitive consumer gets a product that is good for the environment. Bivalves do not need expensive feed to grow and are not a burden to the environment as other cultured seafood species. They are cheap and easy to cook and take very little time to prepare. Bivalves are very nutritious and go well with a multitude of flavours. As a result, bivalves have been more sought after by consumers, particularly the young generation. Further increase in demand and in prices can be expected in the coming months.


France is the second major producer of mussels in Europe, just behind Spain. Locally produced bouchot mussels take the highest price, but in periods of low domestic mussel production, mussels from Spain and the Netherlands also enter the market. For several years it has been possible to purchase mussels on the Internet directly from the producer and sent home to the buyer. The price of this product is about 50 percent higher than the normal wholesale price, but home delivery makes this type of trade more appealing to the consumer. French imports were about stable at 31?000 tonnes in the first half of 2018 when compared with the same period of last year.

Dutch bottom mussel harvest started in early August, a month later than usual, due to slow spring growth. Therefore Dutch mussels are smaller this year, but meat content is reported to be good and prices have been strong.

Italian imports of mussels declined sharply this year. Demand for imported mussels was lower because domestic production was very good, after an unfavourable 2017, when drought and high water temperatures created a negative environment for mussel production.

New Zealand experienced a difficult year for in mussel production. Warnings against collecting shellfish have been extended for parts of the country after the spread of toxic algae. The algal blooms stopped one of the Marlborough Sounds’ biggest industries for three months and temporarily closed more than 100 mussel farms. The unusual aspect of this toxic algae bloom was that it happened during the winter months.


US scallop landings on the East Coast have been record high in 2018, with about 20?000 tonnes landed in the first nine months of the year. Estimates put the total annual production at 30?000 tonnes, which would represent a nearly 13 percent increase from last year. Despite the production boost, scallop prices are on a rise. Between July and September, prices went up by almost 40 percent at wholesale level.

Scallop production in Peru is returning to normal after two years of low production. Total production in 2018 is expected to reach between 2?000 and 2?500 tonnes. The main market for Peruvian scallops is traditionally France, but the production problems during the last two years have driven France to search for alternative suppliers in the world market. French imports of scallops have declined from 6?800 tonnes in the first half of 2017 to 5?200 tonnes in the same period of 2018. The Peruvian share in the French scallop imports declined from more than 10 percent in 2016 to less than 8 percent in 2018. Earnings of Clearwater, a major player in the scallop business, were negatively impacted by the massive US scallop production and the declining demand in Europe.


Japan and the Republic of Korea reported substantial declines in clam imports during the first half of the year, compared to 2017. This was mainly due to lower supplies from China, where cold winter weather led to a weakened production in the first months of the year.

The positive business climate for clam producers and importers continued during the summer months in Europe. Clam production was good in Italy and imports were substituted by domestic production. Imports have been declining sharply from 2?300 tonnes in the first half of 2016 to 930 tonnes in the first half of 2017 and to just 685 tonnes in the first half of 2018.


Oyster production in France was lower in the first six months of 2018 than in the same period of 2017. Despite this decline, exports from France increased slightly in the first half of 2018 to 5?400 tonnes from the 5?200 tonnes exported in the same period of 2017. Summer months are not a major oyster consumption period in Europe, so the weakening in French production is likely to be felt by the market around Christmas, the main sales period for this bivalve.


Winter is not a main mussel consumption period in southern Europe, whereas in the northern part of the continent, mussel is more of a winter product. Demand for mussel products is expected to stay strong in Europe, with stable prices as production is higher this year than last year. For the Christmas period, mussel prices are expected to be 5 percent higher than during Christmas of 2017. In the East Coast of the United States of America, scallop production is expected to exceed the already record high production of 2018. Despite the increase in production, scallop prices are likely to go up also next year. Demand in France for scallops is reported as sluggish and therefore prices are expected to go down by 23 percent in November, when the Peruvian production will reach the market.

Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) confirmed that the remaining 25 percent of the surf clam fishery quota, for which it had previously sought a new entrant, will be fished by the current holder for both 2018 and 2019. This means that Clearwater Seafoods will hold 100 percent of the total allowable catch until 2020, when DFO intends to “identify a new participant” for the fishery, probably a first nations group.

According to the French scientific institution IFREMER, the average cumulative mortality rate of oysters is 67.5 percent at the national level for seed oysters. Juvenile and adult oyster mortalities are reported as being around 12.1 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively. These 2018 values are higher than 2017 and in consequence, prices are expected to be firm towards the end of this year.