The Ethical Shellfish Company to cease trading - and gives Covid and Brexit among reasons for closure

The family-run business is set to close for good.

Published 14th Apr 2022
Updated 31 st Oct 2023

The Ethical Shellfish Company, which supplied fresh seafood including hand dived scallops to top restaurants, is closing down.

Owner Guy Grieve made the announcement on social media today (14 April), posting: "Ethical Shellfish is coming to an end. The family farm is closing down. God knows we tried. Mother Atlantic kept us going for years.

"My sons characters were defined by the experience as was mine & that of my beloved former wife Juliet. Many lives to lead before we die."

The company, which turned to home delivery of items such as Isle of Mull rope grown mussels, hand dived scallops, and Loch Creran oysters, during the lockdowns, was a supplied many top Scottish and UK restaurants with their hand dived scallops.

They also teamed up with other local businesses to add Gigha Smoked Halibut, venison and cheeses to their e-commerce offering, but sadly this will come to an end.

Many replies to the post were of sadness from customers who loved the company's produce and their ethical nature, with some calling on government to intervene to help business such as this.

In a later post to newsletter subscribers, which was also shared on social media, Guy explained further his decision to close the business.

He cited Covid, Brexit, health and safety, rural accommodation and global warming as the main reasons, saying: " It will come as no surprise to hear that Covid spelled the beginning of the end for our business.

"In March 2020 we lost our restaurant market overnight, and although we tried our hardest to replace this by building a home delivery service to enthusiastic and supportive customers it was still a massive reduction in our sales.

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"More serious still, and as a direct consequence of Covid, was the loss of our boats, which we had to sell to keep us afloat during this period."

On Brexit, the business operations relied on European crew, who left the UK during Covid and then weren't able to return.

Of this, Guy said: "This left drastic crew shortages which in the end caused our main supplier to quit fishing altogether and leave Scotland. It also made it even more difficult to staff our small operation on Mull."

On the topic of rural accommodation, the rise of holiday lets pricing locals out of the market was a factor.

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Guy said: "We tried to find people to work for us on Mull but with nowhere to stay it is nigh-on impossible to attract people to move there.

"The scourge of second homes means that houses stand empty for months waiting to be populated by holiday makers in the summer.

"Meanwhile real working people, who would contribute to the community, struggle to find places to stay, and any homes that come on the market are snapped up at inflated prices as second homes.

"It felt like the final insult when in the end we were asked to leave our business premises so that it could be turned into - you guessed it - yet another holiday home."

Recent changes to legislation relating to scallop diving have also been tough on the businesses, as well as weather factors relating to climate change.

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While the Ethical Shellfish Company is no more, Guys is "moving on to other things which are (of course) related to the marine environment so we will keep up the good fight."

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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