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The local species of bay mussel (Mytilus trossulus) is quite tasty, but is relatively small. Moreover, culture operations employing this species have been severely impacted by disease. The mussels die before reaching market size. This species produces enormous natural sets that form black bands of seed along rocky coasts and also covers any culture gear that is hung at less than 1-2 meter in depth. The negative impacts of this annual phenomenon needs to be considered in any culture operation. Conversely, the availability of the free seed may be used to advantage as part of crab feed-lot or baiting programs. It may also be possible to develop a market for small whole "pasta mussels" that gets sprinkled on rice or noodle dishes to provide an interesting dash of colors and flavors.

The mussel culture industry in Washington state relies on hatchery produced seed of an European species (Mytilus galloprovincialis). This species has also grown well in Metlakatla grow out trials, so a mussel industry is a possibility. However, marketing issues are a concern. Processing mussels to meet consumer expectations requires fairly expensive equipment, and there may be problems in marketing large volumes of these mussels.

There are several species of local large mussels that have not been adequately evaluated for either their market or aquaculture potential. These are Mytilus californianus (California mussel), Modiolus modiolus (northern horse mussel), and Musculus niger (black mussel). These species are sufficiently rare that they have not supported commercial fisheries. I have heard a few conflicting comments on flavor, which may simply reflect specific growing conditions. At one time the colorful gonad of the California mussel was given as a reason why it would not be acceptable. However, the New Zealand green lipped mussel industry has shown that this is not a problem.

© 2008 Madelon Mottet

Contact information:
RAM Marine Station
333 9th Ave. W, Prince Rupert, British Columbia V8J 2S6, Canada
Telephone/Fax 1-250-624-2097
email: madelon.mottet@gmail.com or Allen Johnson at abalone55@hotmail.com