Researcher Eduardo Tarifeno of the University of Concepción. (Photo: UdeC)
Bright future for new farmed mussel
Wednesday, October 06, 2010, 02:40 (GMT + 9)
The Chilean aquaculture industry now has a species to harvest: the blue mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis) which is different to the Chilean mussel (Mytilus chilensis), the giant mussel (Choromytilus chorus) and the ribbed mussel (Aulacomya ater).
According to Eduardo Tarifeño, a researcher at the University of Concepción (UdeC), this species has good prospects for cultivation, although it is not produced commercially in the country.
The blue mussle grows rapidly, with yields higher than 20 per cent in plants, and for which global demand is still unmet. Many entrepreneurs and producers hope to make it an alternative to the Galician mussel.
But there are some doubts, such as those by the Shellfish Growers Association of Calbuco A.G., which expressed concerns over the potential effects that could occur by the bivalve reproducing in the south of the country, as there is the possibility of it being cultivated in the same regions as the Chilean mussel.
Tarifeño has been studying the species since 2003, and in 2006, he completed the Fondef project covering the 'cultivation of a new marine resource: the blue mussle (Mytilus sp.)."
As part of this investigation, the expert demonstrated that the mussel is present from Punta Arenas (Magallanes) to Bahia de Coliumo (Bío Bío).
For the moment, there are issues relating to the supply of seeds to start the cash crops, as they do not know the location of natural banks that could serve as seed centers.
The only possibility is to produce seeds in a hatchery, said the scientist.
Currently, researchers from UdeC are engaged in a pilot seed production project: with the aim of producing between eight and ten million.
They were also tested for growth, fattening and performance, and delivered seeds to two small mussel farmers in Llico and Coliumo (in the region of Bío Bío) in January 2009, to do experimental cultivation in aquaculture concessions.
It was anticipated that in March this year to reap the copies, but last February the tsunami destroyed all farming systems.
Tarifeño believes that mass production of the blue mussle "could be an excellent opportunity" to diversify Chilean mussels, focusing to date only on farming the Chilean mussel, reports Aqua.
With regards to the concerns of numerous mussel farmers of the possibility that the Chilean mussels and blue mussels will be grown in the same areas, the scientist said that "they should define the most suitable area for developing the culture" of the new mussel.
"As Chilean mussel farming is well established from Chiloé (Los Lagos) to the Strait of Magallanes (Magallanes), blue mussel cultivation could be implemented from the Gulf of Arauco (Bío Bío), which seems to be the main distribution point to the north, including Coquimbo (Region of Coquimbo) and Mejillones (Region of Antofagasta)," he said.
"Our studies indicate that blue mussels are better suited to warmer temperatures than those of Chiloe, ie above 15ºC. As there are no natural beds of mussels from the northern Chilean region of Araucanía, [...] there is a large area of coastline where it we could implement blue mussel crops," he said.
By Analia Murias