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The Facts About the Green Lipped Mussel

By Edited Oct 28, 2016 0 0

Another name for the New Zealand green lipped mussel is Perna Canaliculus. It enjoys great as a cultivated species of New Zealand. It is basically a bivalve mollusk and belongs to the family of Mytilidae. The Perna Canaliculus has a very wide distribution. So much that it covers the entire mainland in New Zealand. It is generally found in the region below the intertidal zone of New Zealand. However, there may be instances of the intertidal zone being included.

The green lipped mussel feeds on different types of phytoplankton. Many might not know this but it has been introduced as a pest in the Australian waters. New Zealand is economically dependent on this particular shellfish. It differs a lot from other different types of mussels. The major difference can be noted by the fact that it has a dark brown or a dark green shell with a green lip present around the edge of the shell. Moreover, it has only one abductor muscle. What is interesting is the fact that it is one of the largest mussel species and reaches 240 millimeter in length.

What makes these shellfishes unique is the fact that they contain a unique blend of fatty acids. These acids cannot be found in any other type of marine life or even plant life. Of these polysaccharides, there is this one called glycosaminoglycan this particular acid is known to assist in repairing joint tissues that have been damaged. Studies show that the green lipped mussel inhibits the 5 lipoxygenase pathway. This leads to the formation of leukotrienes it is known that most of these pathways have properties that cure disorders like inflammation.

The Perna Canaliculus is endemic to New Zealand. However, the name Greenshell is given to it when it is grown for aquaculture purposes. This name works like a trademark for it. The green lipped mussel aquaculture industry of New Zealand produces over 140,000 tonnes in a year. The Greenshell mussel aquaculture of New Zealand is greatly dependent on the production of mussel seed. This is often known as spat and is the product of the wild mussel population.

Each year, around 270 tonnes of wild spat is supplied to the aquaculture industry. This spat is collected from the beach cast seaweed from the Ninety Mile beach in the northern part of New Zealand. There is no other place in the country where such large quantities of seaweed covered mussel are washed ashore. The spat obtained has a density that can be anything between 200 to 2 million per kilogram of seaweed. The Ninety Mile beach singlehandedly provides almost 80 per cent of the seed mussel that is required by the aquaculture industry.

The rest of the 20 per cent is covered by catching fibrous ropes that are suspended in the sea near the mussel farms.

The funny thing is that the biological and the environmental processes, that cause the spat to arrive on the Ninety Mile beach and also on the spat ropes, are mostly unknown. It is even more amusing when one considers the fact that the industry heavily depends on this wild spat. Moreover, the amount of spat that is washed ashore on this beach is highly variable. The uncertainty of this spat supply has resulted into major trouble in the production for the industry.

It sometimes even causes the industries to go without spat for long spans of time; sometimes even a year. These uncertain spatfall events are greatly affected by El Nino periods, thus causing a lot of delay in the mussel farm production which is caused due to the insufficient seed landing on the beach.

The cultivation of the green lipped mussel began in the year 1970. Since that time, it has gone through a massive expansion. The traditional farms were based on European floating raft method that is almost 700 year old. This was pretty suitable at small scales. However, not long after that, different methods for supporting a larger scale production became the need of the day. The Japanese longline shellfish aquaculture system was adapted.

This led to the modern methods used in today's time for the commercial Greenshell production. This further facilitated the transition to a full-fledged large scale production by including mechanized harvesting.

Now, even after 15 years of research and development of the production of spat in the industry is entirely dependent on wild spat. The main reason behind this is that collecting wild spat is much cheaper than breeding mussels in hatcheries.

However, there are chances of hatcheries becoming increasingly important in the green lipped mussel aquaculture. This is basically because of two reasons. Hatcheries are able to breed desired traits. This gives it the potential for producing a more valuable product. This forms the first main reason. The hatchery seed will be more reliable forming a sturdy base for an industry that is completely reliable on wild seed. This will be more significant after years when the wild spat numbers are really low. At this time, the hatchery spat will attract a premium.

Some of the strictest quality standards are maintained in the operation of the New Zealand green lipped mussel industry. Not only the mussels but also the seawater that is present around the farms is tested for bacteria, metals and different types of biotoxins.

The quality is maintained at all times and regular tests are carried out. All this is done to meet the standards set by the U.S Food and Drug Administration, the European Union and the NZ Food Safety Authority. All the standards laid by these organizations are made to meet the growing demand of healthy and safe seafood products.

The New Zealand Government has put forth the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Fisheries Act 1996. This is done for mitigating the effects of aquaculture on the environment in New Zealand. The high aquaculture standards of New Zealand have been recognized by the International Conservation Blue Ocean Institute. This organization has ranked the New Zealand green lipped mussel as one of the top two "eco friendly seafoods" in the world.

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