Bivalves: Low supplies


Demand for bivalves was limited in 2022. Supply of bivalves was generally lower than in 2021 due to climate and other negative impacts, such as fuel costs for extractive bivalve production. Despite low demand, prices moved up slightly.


During the summer months, Dutch mussel production is reported to have suffered from a lack of nutrients due to decreased levels of fresh water. Summer production of mussels in France has suffered from a lack of rain which is essential to bring nutrients and help phytoplankton growth in the production zones. This has delayed production cycles in many regions, including the AOP Moules de la Baie du Mont St Michel. Normandy mussel production, particularly around the Chausey Islands, has also been severely affected by spider crab predation, which is reported to have caused the loss of up to 30 percent of production. The local prefecture in Normandy has agreed to carry out experimental dredging around the production area to address the problem. Lower freshwater arrivals in the Adriatic Sea, similar to the Netherlands and France, also impacted Italian mussel production.

Mussel prices in Italy reached EUR 2.80 per kg at the retail level in October 2022, while the normal price level is around EUR 1.50 per kg. Overall, the Rungis wholesale price quotation for mussels increased significantly in early October 2022, reflecting production conditions and ready demand. Bouchot prices have increased by EUR 1.40 per kg since late August, Dutch mussels by EUR 0.25 per kg since August and Spanish mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) by EUR 0.20 per kg since September.

The lower production impacted mussel trade in Europe. In the first six months of 2022, a 2 percent decline in trade was reported, down to 133 000 tonnes. Demand grew in France, where higher imports compensated for lower domestic production.


Oyster trade expanded strongly in the first half of 2022, mainly due to strong demand in the US market. Some 35 000 tonnes were imported worldwide during this period, which is 5 000 tonnes more than in the same period of 2021. US imports increased by 23 percent, while Italy also reported a 24 percent expansion in imports.

France is the main exporter of oysters to the world market; these exports are mainly going to neighbouring countries such as Italy and Spain, but also to the United States of America. Oyster exports increased in the first half of 2022 to reach 7 000 tonnes, compared to 5 800 tonnes in the main period of 2021.

Oysters are generally consumed more in winter months, with a peak at Christmas. As such, prices during the summer months are not very indicative, although it is worth noting that there were price increases in Europe.  


Scallop catches in the United States of America were lower in 2022 than in 2021. The catch season runs from April to March. From April 2021 to March 2022 some 17 300 tonnes of scallops were landed by the Atlantic fishing fleet, which is concentrated in Massachusetts. The estimates for the 2022-2023 fishing season are 13 500 tonnes, which is 22 percent less than in the previous fishing season. Landings during each month of the new season were lower than in the 2021-2022 season. In July 2022, normally the main production month, some 1 000 tonnes less of scallops were landed. This is mainly due to a drop in fishing vessels and the time spent fishing.

On the other hand, and quite surprisingly, prices are going down. Auction prices for the 10-20 count were USD 14.90 per lb in October 2022, which compares to USD 23.53 per lb in the same period of last year. The very large scallops, too, recorded a 9 percent value year-on-year in October 2022.

However, there are some bright signs for the Atlantic US scallop fisheries, as the Northern Edge of Georges Bank, could be reopened for scallop fisheries. This area was closed off some 30 years ago, to help the recovery of the cod fisheries. The biomass of scallops in this area is in such great shape that it could make up for 5 000 tonnes annually, which would be almost 40 percent of the present scallop landings.

Scallop trade increased in 2022, on the wave of the general normalization of the market after the COVID-19 crisis. Imports went up by 17 percent in the first half of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021. The main importing country was China, followed by the United States of America and France. The Republic of Korea is now the fourth major scallop importer, reporting a 24 percent increase in 2022. Spain almost doubled its imports in the first six months of 2022. China and France are also the main exporting countries of scallops. Remarkably, Peru, which had recovered nicely as a scallop producer and exporter, experienced a setback in the first half of 2022, reporting a 35 percent decline in exports.


The issue of the size of clams is back as a topic of discussion between Italy and Spain. Back in 2015, the European Union imposed a ban on fishing for molluscs less than 25 millimetres long on all Member States, including Italy, to safeguard the species. For this reason, Italy had requested and obtained a derogation to lower the minimum reference size to 22 millimetres in some geographical sub-areas, especially the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic coasts. They argued that the original ruling did not consider that clams can reproduce at just over 11 millimetres. The measure has been repeatedly extended over the years; the last deadline is 31 December 2022. Last March, Italy presented a new joint recommendation to the Commission to ask to establish a further derogation. It did so based on scientific evidence validated by STECF, the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries, and the Advisory Council for the Mediterranean Sea. However, the act concerning the Italian exception extension until the end of 2025 has sparked controversy. Spain is appealing to the European Parliament against these new derogations claiming it is unfair competition. Spain asked to deepen the scientific evidence underlying the act delegated by the STECF, on which heavy doubts were expressed.

However, China remains the leading player at an international level, as the main clam exporter. Spain increased its clam imports impressively, replacing Japan as the main destination. The Republic of Korea remains the second global importer, while Japan has dropped to third.


Some bivalves are mainly consumed in winter months, especially in Europe. Oysters are a classic Christmas dinner item in high demand. However, it is difficult to anticipate the festivity demand for fish and fish products. Given the overall difficult economic situation, consumers might refrain from expensive dining, going out to white-cloth restaurants, and the like, which would result in less demand for oysters and other speciality bivalves.

Share this page