Researcher says mussels along coast are gone

Steaning Mussels algaeSteaming mussels. Photo: Norway Today Media

Mussels have died or disappeared along the coasts of Norway, France, the Netherlands, and Scotland.


Professionals from all over Europe meet annually to discuss unusual diseases. Among other things,they have taken up what has happened to the mussels.
Just before Easter, they met in the French town of La Rochelle.

Senior researcher, Stein Mortensen from the Institute of Marine Research said that it was found that the mussels have died in several places in Europe.

“There is an unnaturally high mortality of mussels in France,the Netherlands, and Scotland,” said Mortensen. He said it’s mysterious that the mussels have disappeared.

Several reasons

In cross-border EU cooperation, researchers try to illuminate what is happening and find a cause.

In France they have found bacteria that propagate when it gets very hot in the water.

‘’Some bacterial types produce toxins that can kill the shells,”explained Mortensen.

He said that there are probably more factors involved. Some may be related to climate and environmental changes, which can lead to a slow change in stocks. Some may be linked to disease, which causes acute mortality.

Doesn’t alter the changes

In Norway over the past 7 to 8 years there have been reports that the mussels have disappeared from places where they have “always” been.

‘’Do they disappear or move on?’’

‘’Both. In many places, fewer mussels are reported. And then we see that they are gone from areas where they used to be numerous.’’

Mortensen said that they are registering several changes. There are changes to when and where the shells are appearing, where they settle down and where we find a lot of mussels. Some of the mussels also have increased mortality.

“It’s a change that we do not fully understand,” said Mortensen.

Decline in farming

According to Finansavisen newspaper, 2016 was a bad year for the aquaculture industry. One of the two major mussel producers in Norway, Snadder and Snaskum and Norgesskjell, had 9% lower sales in 2016 than the year before.

Figures from the Directorate of Fisheries show that the fish farming industry had a peak year in 2005 when they sold 4,904 tonnes of mussels. By comparison, 2,176 tonnes of mussels were sold in 2016.

Kari Kolstad, Dean of Norway’s Environmental and Biological Sciences,believes that more knowledge about mussels that lives naturally will also benefit the cultivation of the species.

Mussel farming can be an important part of the circular bioeconomy,and could help to make more food in the world.

“The world’s population is increasing, and by cultivating more food in the ocean, we can exploit the potential that lies there,” Kolstad said.

She believes it is important to have a breeding program to achieve sustainable and targeted farming.



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