The mussel industry is holding a field trial to cultivate mussels in Zeeland's North Sea Voordelta. Recently the socks with mussel seed and half-water mussels went into the water. Over the next year and a half, researchers from HZ University of Applied Sciences and others will look into whether it is technically and financially feasible to cultivate nature-inclusive hanging culture mussels in this dynamic environment.
Mussel farming is one of the least environmentally damaging sources of animal protein. This has increased support for other cultivation areas besides the traditional ones in the Waddenzee and Oosterschelde.
The trial will take place in Zeeland's Voordelta of the North Sea, about two kilometers off the coast of Walcheren (off the old Roompot). This area is known for its favorable growing conditions for mussels, but is challenging because of strong currents and high waves. A key question, therefore, is whether it is technically possible to grow mussels in the rough conditions of the open sea.
Two suspended culture systems have been deployed; one floating and one submerged system with so-called longlines. The results in both systems are being studied by researchers from the Aquaculture in Delta Areas lectureship of the HZ and Wageningen Marine Research. They measure environmental parameters, such as wave action, currents, forces on the systems, movement of the mussels on the longlines and food supply. They use both underwater and above-water cameras to do this.
The trial is a great desire of the Mussel Culture Producers Association. It will give growers more space for mussel farming. In current production areas, the volume of mussels has been declining for decades, while the demand for sustainable marine proteins is expected to rise sharply in the future. The expansion should also eventually increase the earning capacity of the mussel fleet.
The Dutch mussel sector must reduce mussel seed fishing on the bottom of the Wadden Sea and increase the capacity of mussel seed capture installations. These agreements are contained in the Mossel Covenant with the government. This requires significant investments. The covenant therefore agreed to expand the number of breeding areas.
The client for the research is Producer Organization Mussel Culture. Funding comes from the Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture subsidy scheme of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate.