The research carried out by AZTI, an expert centre in marine and food innovation, in the field of mussel breeding and marketing, has led to the creation of the company Matxitxako Moluscos S.L. This is the first business initiative for the production of open sea mussels in the waters of the Bay of Biscay and was born as a result of the R+D activities developed within the ‘Strategic Plan for Fishing and Aquaculture’. Euskadi 2020′ of the Basque Government. The production plant is located on the coastal stretch between Ondarroa and Lekeitio and since summer 2019 it has been marketing category A and organic mussels – on environmentally friendly production -, all according to the inspections of the current European regulations, under the brand name AMARRA.

Several promoters from the Basque Country’s fishing, processing, marketing and research sectors have joined forces to set up the company, which is an example of cooperation between private entities, the scientific community and administrations. Matxitxako Moluscos emerges as an initiative to promote employment in the fishing sector, which has a long tradition in the Basque Country, and to generate new seafood in high demand, of local origin and with great brand potential.

Among the main promoters of Matxitxako Moluscos are the Lekeitio and Ondarroa brotherhoods, the Biscayan companies Arrankoba and Itsaskorda, the Organization of Coastal Fishing Producers of Gipuzkoa (Opegui), the Association of Coastal Shipowners of Gipuzkoa (Garela) and AZTI. The strong cultural roots of fishing have reinforced the interest of the promoters to carry out this innovative activity in the Basque Country, in spite of the fact that its coast presents very severe conditions in terms of competition of coastal uses and ocean-meteorological conditions,

International pioneering initiative

This business initiative is a pioneer at an international level, due to the involvement of different agents: administration, producers and the scientific community. It has been set up with a forecast investment of two million euros and is aimed at fulfilling a production and marketing plan of more than 1,000 tonnes of mussels per year in the first phase, in addition to other species, through the use of underwater technology. The company expects to carry out future expansions to reach 3,000 tons of mussels, also produce oysters and generate 20 jobs between direct and indirect employment and a return on investment of more than 80% within the first three years.

The company’s activity will mean the take-off of local production and marketing at source of the Cantabrian mussel, since this marine product is currently imported 100% from the estuaries of Galicia and Chile; and, in addition, it will catalyse the flow of imports and marketing through this territory. Another favourable element for the development of Matxitxako Moluscos is the excellent microbiological quality of the open waters of the Basque coast, which complies with the requirements of European regulations and which will favour organic and environmentally friendly production practices.

This initiative was born in 2010 at AZTI, where, facing the challenges of the fishing sector and with the aim of generating solutions for it, its researchers worked for more than five years in the development and analysis of biological, economic, environmental and social viability studies, which ended with pilot tests and satisfactory results. The innovative initiative was supported by the Department of Economic Development and Competitiveness of the Basque Government, as it contributed to the development of new activities, products and employment, as well as to social cohesion linked to the uses of the sea and its resources.

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