Mussel Bed Restoration Project

Right up until the 1960’s the Pelorus Sound was home to extensive wild Greenshell mussel beds. Throughout the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s these wild beds were over-fished - to the point where only a fraction of the wild stocks remained.  

Mussels are the building blocks of many coastal environments and provide a number of critical ecosystem services including; providing habitat, stabilising the seabed and filtering the water. Whilst farmed mussels provide the same ecosystem services, restoration of the wild beds will only provide further benefits. A secondary benefit of thriving wild mussel beds is the production of juvenile mussels (known as spat) that can then be caught and grown on marine farms.  

In 2016, two mussel farmers based in the Pelorus Sound came to the Marine Farming Association with the idea of a restoration project. The MFA then canvassed its members and found that there was widespread support for the project, with a number of companies offering both cash and in-kind contributions. The MFA then partnered with The Nature Conservancy and the University of Auckland (who are providing both in-kind and cash support) and applied for co-funding from the Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF).  The SFF application was successful and the project was born.

The project aims to identify methods to restore wild mussel beds in the Pelorus Sound that are also scalable and viable for use in other parts of Marlborough. The University of Auckland is leading the research, with support from NIWA and industry members.

The Pelorus Mussel Restoration Project involves the following steps:

  • Developing a Research Plan based on the successful Hauraki Gulf project and international best practice
  • Identifying potential research sites with appropriate benthic environments and water conditions
  • Installing small trial mussel beds
  • Placing shell material on the seabed to stabilise sediments
  • Installing larger trial beds (including some on top of shell beds)
  • Assessment of the performance of the trial mussel beds
  • Monitoring of species abundance and diversity within the trial beds and in the surrounding area

Please see the project updates for progress to date or for more information get in touch with us via the Contact Page.