Boost for “magic mussel carpets”

Press Release: Revive Our Gulf

Efforts to revive the Hauraki Gulf’s lost mussel beds have been given a significant boost over the past week.

Around three and a half million live adult mussels have been deposited in a restoration area the size of eight rugby fields off eastern Waiheke Island.

The Revive our Gulf community trust established initial beds last December and monitoring by University of Auckland scientists has shown successful establishment and the presence of juvenile mussels.

The additional 63 tonnes of mussels increase the restoration area ten-fold and were provided free of charge by North Island Mussels Ltd.

The mussels do not meet the size requirement for supermarket supply, and after grading on a harvesting barge, were bagged for restoration purposes. The Revive our Gulf community trust has covered the costs of barge transportation from the mussel farm to the restoration site.

Trust chairman John Laurence says the partnership with North Island Mussels Ltd had enabled two drops of 30-40 tonnes of mussels to be made over the past fortnight, and more are expected.

“Our vision is to work alongside mussel producers throughout the year, enabling the industry’s production of top quality seafood to go hand in hand with active restoration of the Hauraki Gulf.”

In March Revive our Gulf released stunning before and after shots showing how bare, silty seafloor had been transformed into matted mussels, inhabited by fish, starfish and other marine life.

“These magic carpets filter sediments from the water and provide rich habitat for juvenile snapper and other marine life,” says John Laurence.

Mussel reefs once carpeted 500 square kilometres of soft sediments throughout the Firth of Thames and Tamaki Strait but were ripped up by dredges and then poachers, until the fishery collapsed in the 1960s. With spat unable to settle on the increasingly muddy bottom the natural cycle of regeneration was broken. Mussel farming on ropes began to supply market demand.

Revive our Gulf research director Shane Kelly says, “Our research programme aims to identify the factors necessary for creating self-sustaining reefs. Once we crack that puzzle then a partnership with mussel growers will enable us to accelerate our work, supplying restoration advice and seed mussels to community initiatives all around the Gulf.”

The Revive our Gulf project was initiated at the Hauraki Gulf Forum’s 2012 Charting the Enhancement Pathway seminar.

Forum chairman John Tregidga said he welcomed the marine farming industry’s commitment to the project. “I would like to see every sector align their activities with opportunities to protect and enhance the Hauraki Gulf.”