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August 30, 2016

Gulf of Maine mussel population drastically dropping

Courtesy / Flickr, Katrin Lena A number of factors appear to be contributing to the dropping numbers of blue mussels along the coastline of the Gulf of Maine.

The number of blue mussels along the coastline of the Gulf of Maine is rapidly dropping as the population of the mollusk has dropped by more than 60% over the last four decades.

Cascade Sorte, an assistant professor of ecology at the University of California at Irvine, told The Associated Press that several factors appear to be contributing to the drop in mussel population including warming ocean waters, the introduction of new predatory invasive species and an increase in human harvesting.

At one time, Sorte told the AP that the mussel population once covered as much as two-thirds of the Gulf of Maine’s intertidal zone, now they cover less than 15%.

In 2013, the value of wild blue mussels topped $13 million, more than twice the 2007 total and in 2014, approximately 4 million pounds of mussels were harvested, worth over $10 million.

The impact of mussels extends beyond their economic impact, as the mollusk also provides habitat and food for other organisms and filters ocean water.

"It's so disheartening to see it (the loss) in our marine habitats. We're losing the habitats they create," Sorte told the AP.

Photo: Flickr/ Kartin Lena 

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