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First Federal mussel aquaculture project underway
Friday, 17 October 2014 16:40

The first shellfish aquaculture project permitted in federal waters off the East Coast of the United States is expected to begin operating next year.

Scientists and fishermen are partnering on the project, which aims to grow blue mussels within a 30-acre area in Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts.

The aim is to create new employment opportunities and satisfy consumer demand for local seafood without posing risks to vulnerable marine life such as whales and sea turtles.

Technology for the project was tested by the fisheries department of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the states of New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Scientists found that mussels grow rapidly and have a high survival rate using the technology.

For the current project, the New England District of the US Army Corps of Engineers authorised installation of the structures needed to grow the mussels.

The Corps only authorised the use of three mussel lines, at first, to ensure that the technology can withstand rough weather so there is minimal risk to marine life.

Over time, partners could deploy up to 25 mussel lines, if the initial tests are successful.

Each mussel line consists of a 146-metre horizontal polysteel rope, which is suspended in the water column to a depth of six- to nine metres using anchor lines and buoys.

Mussels are then hung vertically in “socks” from the head rope, roughly a metre apart.

Mussels grown from seed (small mussels captured from the area) reach a marketable size in about a year.


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