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Molluscs - A Most Sustainable Shellfish!

Did you know that shellfish aren’t fish at all? Shellfish is a non-scientific term used for molluscs, crustaceans and echinoderms. Examples of molluscs include: clams, mussels, oysters, and scallops. Crab, crayfish, lobsters and shrimp are examples of crustaceans. Starfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and sand dollars are examples of echinoderms. What do all of these creatures have in common? They have an exoskeleton and are invertebrates. Some shellfish like clams, crayfish, mussels, oysters, scallops, shrimp and sea cucumbers are also farmed commercially. 

Farming clams, mussels, oysters and scallops is especially interesting as raising these species can actually have a beneficial impact on the environment! Clams, mussels, oysters and scallops are also known as ‘bivalve’ molluscs. This means they feed by filtering plankton and detritus from the surrounding water. Thus, because they are filter feeders, they are uniquely sustainable as they do not need to be fed commercial feed. In 2014, 16.1 million tons of molluscs were farmed at an estimated value of US $19 billion (FAO 2016). That’s an astounding 21.8% of all farmed aquatic animals by quantity and 11.8% in value. The top region for producing molluscs was Asia at 14.8 million tons and the overwhelming majority of this, over 13.4 million tons, was raised in China. Europe as a region was the second largest producer of molluscs at 613,789 tons. In 2015, mussels (8%) tied with tilapia as the third most certified species behind salmon and Pangasius (10%).

Clam, mussels, oysters and scallops are covered by aquaculture certification schemes like GLOBALG.A.P., which provides the additional assurance they are raised in accordance with strict standards covering food safety, animal welfare as well as environmental and social issues. So, whether you enjoy ‘moules frites’, steamed clams, oysters on the half shell or sautéed scallops, look for the GGN label when shopping and enjoy molluscs, a most sustainable shellfish!