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Blue Mussel Oversettlment Project | The Greenshell mussel industry in Marlborough earns around $170m in export earnings each year. The oversettlement of blue mussels on mussel farms is detrimental to the mussel farming industry in the region and it will be of great benefit to the industry if a productive model for oversettlement can be established, farmers could then adjust their farming techniques to avoid these oversettlements.

Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) Application.
The Marine Farming Association lodged an application with the SFF to further enhance our current spat programme. This application was successful in attracting government funding. The project will increase the sampling areas for blue mussels to better predict the extent of blue mussel abundance in the Marlborough Sounds.

Throughout the project the Association will be better able to advise its members of the abundance of blue mussel spat in the water column which will in turn enable farmers to avoid over settlement by temporarily adjusting their farming methods.

Why has the MFA done this?
  • To develop a practical tool for mussel farmers to enable them to better manage their farming activities by reducing costs, rework and loss of growing space.
  • The collection of baseline data will overtime show trends which may be related to changes in environmental conditions..
  • An added benefit may be the identification of Greenshell mussel spat collection sites outside of the current collection areas.
  • At the conclusion of the three year project the MFA will better understand the distribution, abundance and farming implications associated with the over settlement of blue mussels. A review of the project with options for further work/continuation will be undertaken in the third year of the project.
What are the foreseeable benefits to MFA and its Members?
The data collected in the Blue Mussel Over-Settlement Project aims to help understand the abundance of blue mussels in the Marlborough Sounds by;
  • Not seeding greenshell mussels at peak blue mussel spawning times.
  • Sinking spat and growing lines to avoid blue mussel settlement.
  • Reducing on-vessel and factory grading out of blue mussels, thus reducing the level of blue mussels being dumped in landfills.
  • Trialling of innovative methods to manage blue mussel over settlement.
  • Increasing the production of Greenshell mussels using the same farming space.
  • Reducing the level of vessel use for rework and operational inefficiencies.
  • Increased knowledge through the collection and build-up of blue mussel spat collection data will allow the scientific experts to develop trends and understand further the behaviour of blue mussel spat.
  • The information from this programme will be shared with all members of the Marine Farming Association (representing 95-98% of mussel farmers) in the Top of the South.

Project Update | February 2013
Since August 2012 the MFA has been taking samples and having them analysed on a weekly basis, these come from the 41 spat sampling stations installed on 20 sites in the Pelorus Sound, Port Underwood and East Bay. The stations have two sampling depths, generally one at 2m and one at 10m. The results are recorded and distributed to all MFA members, plus all results are posted on the MFA website.

We have had positive feedback from members regarding the project. Members are finding the results useful and they are being used to assist in their mussel farming practices. A survey of industry members will be conducted in July (12 month anniversary) to analyse the usefulness of the information being circulated.

Seawater temperature data loggers have been introduced at 3 sites at a depth of 4.5m. These readings are included with the regular weekly sampling results.

The first milestone report has been sent to the Ministry for Primary Industries. We are pleased to report that all agreed milestones have been met.

Project Update | June 2013
On the 10th May 2013 the Blue Mussel Oversettlement Project workshop and Spat meeting was held Havelock Bowling Club, 34 members attended.

The BMOP graphs and results for the project to date were presented. Overall farmers are using the blue mussel sampling results in their farming practices. The MFA has received a lot of positive feedback from members regarding the project.

Survey results from members on the BMOP have provided great feedback. Farmers are using the data for their farming practices. It is proving to be a very useful project within the mussel farming industry. The BMOP contractors presented their season’s reports and discussed the progress so far. Javier from Cawthron gave a presentation on results from a fouling project in the Pelorus. There will be another workshop held in October; all members will be invited to attend. In this workshop we will have a full year’s results for the project.

There was a wide ranging discussion on new sampling sites that were found to have high green counts, unfortunately green mussel spat that a farmers caught at Skiddaw and re-seeded to the outer sounds didn’t survive.

Project Update | January 2014
The Blue Mussel Oversettlement Project is running along smoothly with members using the data in their everyday farming practices.

In December 2013 we introduced further temperature data loggers that take readings at 2 hourly intervals in Clova Bay, these are at depths of 4m & 15m. We also installed another logger on the Skiddaw Bay site. The results from these readings are available on the MFA website and also on the weekly spat results emails that are sent to members who wish to receive them. This extension work is being funded by the MFA.

At the last workshop there was a wide ranging discussion on the type of data that needs to be collected and analysed. There is more interest in forming a predictive farming model that farmers could use to predict blue mussel oversettlement, food reserves, spawning rates and patterns etc. This would help them to decide when to seed, fallow and harvest lines. The extra temperature loggers were an outcome of this discussion, it was agreed that this was a good place to start with the extra data gathering.

Project Update | June 2014
The Blue Mussel Oversettlement Project is running along smoothly with members using the data in their everyday farming practices.

At the May 2014 there were wide ranging discussions regarding the spat season. This is the first time in three years that there have been good catches with not a lot of blues present.
 
There were discussions regarding large blue oversettlement on lines in a site that had been in the water for 4 years, upon harvest the line was 40-50% blues. It was thought this was due to the lines being in the water for too long.

It was also noted that the slow growing spat may be due to the fact that the growth had been stunted by lines being too densely seeded than the presence of too many farms. The changing wind patterns seem to have an effect on the blue oversettlement.

An overview was given of a BMOP questionnaire regarding the project going forward post 2015. The importance of the questionnaire was stressed, as this is what future decisions regarding a spat monitoring programme will be based on. The survey has been sent to all members as is on the MFA website

There was also an overview of the costs of the Blue Mussel Oversettlement Project. Farmers need to start considering what to do once the SFF funding ends in July 2015. At present the project cash costs are $230k per annum, plus in kind contributions. There was a wide ranging discussion regarding the project and its benefits to members. It was agreed that there was a need for further data to be collected and collated to analyse any trends present. The MFA have had a preliminary discussion with MPI on this matter.

Project Update | January 2015
On the 3rd October the Spat Workshop and Blue Mussel Oversettlement Project meeting was held at the Havelock Bowling Club. All members were invited to attend.

During the workshop there were active discussions around the recent spat season. Graphs which showed areas that perform in similar ways and their correlations with each other were presented.

Javier from Cawthron gave a presentation on spat trends for both Blue and Greenshell mussels. The trends included seasons, temperatures etc. He then went onto explain how this information could be used to develop a predictive model.

A recommendation will be made to the MFA Executive Committee to apply for an extension to the BMOP project to collate the historical spat counts and include environmental data with an aim to build a model to help farmers predict when and where there is likely to be a blue mussel event (leading to oversettlement).
The sampling regime post June 2015 was discussed and it was agreed to reduce the number of sampling sites and include environmental data in the sampling results. MFA staff will explore options and present this, along with funding requirements to the MFA Executive Committee.

Project Update | June 2015
On the 8th May the Spat Workshop and Blue Mussel Oversettlement Project meeting was held at the Havelock Bowling Club. All members were invited to attend.
At this workshop graphs were presented on the spat season, with comparisons to previous years. There were wide ranging discussions around the past ‘lean’ spat season with farmers sharing their spat catching experiences.

The BMOP project was discussed, farmers are still using the information for the day to day running of their operations and have found the project to be very useful. Farmers stressed the importance of having some form of spat sampling programme once the BMOP project ends.

Javier from Cawthron gave an overview and presentation on the progress with the BMOP Extension this included:
• The entity’s that have provided data for the model.
• The collation of the data obtained so far
• The proposed web based predictive model

There were wide ranging discussions regarding the web based model and the data that is needed in the future to make the model a ‘living’ tool.

The new spat sampling programme post June 2015 was explained. This entails the original greens programme plus five year round sampling sites that will be used to verify the predictive model. This programme will run for 24 months. Funding for this sampling will come from the MFA budget.

The next workshop will be in October 2015. All members will be invited to attend.

Project Update | December 2015
There was a workshop on the 6th November 2015. All members were invited to attend. At this workshop a presentation on the progress with the BMOP Extension was given, this included an interactive component with the web-based model where attendees could navigate around the site and provide their feedback.
Part of the presentation was what the model had predicted for the month of October. Farmers commented that it seemed to be quite an accurate prediction. Members have been asked to logon and use the model and to provide feedback to MFA on their experiences. A link to the predictive model website is available HERE and in the member logon section of the MFA website.

Please note that there are two pages to this site. You can navigate between these pages by clicking either 'explore' or 'forecast' at the top of the page. The 'explore' page is where spat counts for both greens and blues can be viewed for any site back to 1993. The second page is the 'forecast' page where the model predicts blue spat oversettlement. You can view each month by moving the slider on the page.
Based on you feedback regarding the model the MFA Executive will decide whether to continue to keep the model running once the SFF funding ceases at the end of 2015. Members are asked to provide feedback regarding the model to MFA by the 15th January 2016.


Results from each reading are being emailed to members. If you do not wish to receive the weekly emails with the sampling results, please let Debbie know so we can remove you from the list, email: debbie@marinefarming.co.nz  or phone: 03 578 5044.

Many thanks to all for getting the project up and running. Thanks also to all those farmers who gave us permission to install sample stations on their sites.
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