The blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) is a widely distributed boreo-temperate species occurring in the Arctic, North Pacific, and North Atlantic Oceans. On the east coast of North America, its range extends from Labrador to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and it is common throughout the North Atlantic and Mid-Atlantic Regions. It is most common in the littoral to sublittoral zones (<99 m) of oceanic and polyhaline to mesohaline estuarine environments; however, it has been found in deeper and cooler waters (100 to 499 m) that enable it to penetrate as far south as Charleston, South Carolina (Newell 1989).
To expand mussel production, Maine (USA) mussel producers are developing suspension culture using 12 m triple pontoon raft systems. Each raft produces 45 tonnes of mussels in an 18 month rearing cycle. In Maine, the best commercial mussel beds are found a few feet above and below MLW between Casco Bay and Jonesport. Six of the most productive areas are Casco Bay, Muscongus Bay, Tenants Harbor to Vinalhaven, Stonington to Deer Isle, Sorrento to Mt. Desert Narrows, and the Jonesport area.
Currently the economics of the fishery for wild stocks of blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) and part-managed bottom culture are much better because per-unit production costs are only about one third those for off-bottom mariculture (Clifton 1980). Although the fishery for wild stocks in New England was thought to be approaching a maximum sustainable yield (Clifton 1980), the discovery of new inshore and offshore beds in Maine and Massachusetts, as well as the development of certain management practices, such as thinning wild stocks and moving stocks between areas to improve meat quality and yields, has enabled annual harvests to increase with demand.
Blue mussels are generally gathered in the larger commercial operations by dredging and sorting aboard ship using a mechanical washer-grader; in smaller operations they inay be harvested in shallow water by raking or pitchforking them into small boats before they are transferred to a larger vessel for mechanical cleaning and sorting (Newell 1989).
On the Atlantic coast, blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) are harvested commercially from Maine to Long Island, New York but Maine has historically ranked first in mussel landings. Blue mussels are abundant, bivalve molluscs of the intertidal and shallow, subtidal zone. In Maine they are found in densely populated beds just above and below mean low water (MLW), but are restricted to the intertidal zone in many areas because of subtidal predation.
Earlier surveys estimated the size of the marketable resource at 320,000 bushels (Scattergood and Taylor, 1949) and 544,000 bushels (MARITEC, 1978), but they probably underestimated the resource at the time and the results are now outdated.
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