Mussel Culture (Tahong)


Mussels are among the many invertebrates under the Phylum Mollusca. Their wide distribution in the coastal areas of the Indo-Pacific region makes them the most easily gathered seafood organisms, contributing a significant percentage to the world marine bivalve production. In the Philippines, approximately 12,000 MT of mussels were produced in 1987. This amount consisted only of farmed green mussel.

Being a filter-feeder of phytoplankton and detritus, it is considered the most efficient converter of nutrients and organic matter, produced by marine organisms in the aquatic environment, into palatable and nutritious animal protein. Its very short food chain (one link only), sturdy nature, fast growth rate and rare occurrence of catastrophic mass mortalities caused by parasitic micro-organisms, makes it possible to produce large quantities at a very reasonable price. Mussel culture is the most productive form of saltwater aquaculture and its proliferation is virtually a certainty

Mussel farming does not require highly sophisticated techniques compared to other aquaculture technologies. Even un-skilled laborers, men, women, and minors can be employed in the preparation of spat collectors as well as harvesting. Locally available materials can be used, hence minimum capital investment is required. The mussel harvest can be marketed locally and with good prospects for export.

Success in mussel farming, however, depends in providing some basic requirements to the bivalve such as: reasonable amount of sheltering of the culture areas, good seawater quality, and sufficient food in the form of planktonic organisms. These pre-requisites are found in some coastal waters, hence locating ideal sites for mussel cultivation is essential.

3.1.1 Site location

In prospecting sites for mussel cultivation, well-protected or sheltered coves and bays are preferred than open un-protected areas. Sites affected by strong wind and big waves could damage the stock and culture materials and, therefore, must be avoided. Another important consideration is the presence of natural mussel spatfall.

Areas serving as catchment basins for excessive flood waters, during heavy rains, should not be selected. Flood waters would instantly change the temperature and salinity of the seawater, which is detrimental to the mussel.

Sites accessible by land or water transportation are preferred so that culture materials and harvests can be transported easily.

3.1.2. Water quality

Areas rich in plankton, usually greenish in color, should be selected. Water should be clean and free from pollution. Sites near densely populated areas should not be selected in order to avoid domestic pollution. In addition, the culture areas should be far from dumping activities of industrial wastes and agricultural pesticides and herbicides.

Waters too rich in nutrients, which may cause dinoflagellate blooms and render the mussels temporarily dangerous for human consumption, causing either gastro-intestinal troubles or sometimes paralytic poisoning, should be avoided.

Water physio-chemical parameters are also important factors to be considered. The area selected should have a water temperature ranging from 27-30 °C, which is the optimum range required for mussel growth. Water salinity of 27-35 ppt is ideal. A water current of 17-25 cm per second during flood tide and 25-35 cm per second at ebb-tide should be observed.

Favorable water depth for culture is 2 m and above, both for spat collection and cultivation.

3.3.3. Bottom type

Bottom consisting of a mixture of sand and mud has been observed to give better yields of mussel than firm ones. It also provides less effort in driving the stakes into the bottom. Shifting bottoms must be avoided.

3.2 Cultured mussel species

Among the mussels proliferating in the coastal areas of the tropical zone, the green mussel, perna viridis (mytilus smaragdinus), called tahong in the Philippines, is the only species farmed commercially. In the temperate zone, it is the blue mussel, Mytilus edulis, as this species can grow at low seawater temperatures.

3.3 Culture methods

Mussel culture, as practiced in many countries, is carried out by using a variety of culture methods based on the prevailing hydrographical, social and economic conditions.

3.3.1. Bottom culture

Bottom culture as the name implies is growing mussels directly on the bottom (Fig. 1). In this culture system a firm bottom is required with adequate tidal flow to prevent silt deposition, removal of excreta, and to provide sufficient oxygen for the cultured animals. This method requires a minimum investment. Disadvantages, however, of this type of culture is the heavy predation by oyster drills, starfish, crabs, etc. Also, siltation, poor growth and relatively low yields per unit culture area.

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