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Innovative Mussel Growing Prototype to Launch

by the Fish Site Editor
15 January 2009, at 12:00am

ELLSWORTH - After more than four years of work with help from the University of Maine law school and the Maine Technology Institute, Norman Hodgkins plans to launch a prototype of his unique mussel growing system into the waters of Frenchman Bay.

According to The Ellsworth America, Hodgkins’ prototype essentially consists of a series of 8-foot-long, 7-inch-high panels suspended horizontally below an 18-by-16-foot rectangular aluminum raft. The panels, about a quarter-inch thick, are made of fiberglass skins over an aluminum “skeleton” to hold down weight.

Hodgkins said that mussel spat (juvenile mussels) that are found in the water through most of the spring and summer will collect on the panels as they do on boats, buoy ropes and pilings. Once a sufficient number of spat have attached themselves, the panels can be allowed to hang vertically while the mussels grow to harvestable size, reported The Ellsworth America this week.

Unlike operations that grow mussels on suspended long lines that generally require water depths of at least 80 to 100 feet, Hodgkins’ rafts can be moored out of the way of fishermen and recreational boaters in water as shallow as 15 feet, “as long as there’s good water flow and it’s out of the southeasterly,” he told the news organisation.

According to Hodgkins, studies in Europe and elsewhere have shown that during the spring, spat are most abundant within 10 feet of the water’s surface. Even long line systems collect most of the spat they use at shallow depths. Once the spat are collected, however, the long lines must be hung in deep water. That is laborious and time-consuming process that Hodgkins says his system eliminates.

With the long line system, Hodgkins said, the spat collecting lines have to be hauled up for inspections. Then, once the spat are collected, they have to be stripped from the collection lines then placed in bags that have to be plaited into the lines on which the mussels will grow to market size.

Hodgkins said the panels should be extremely productive as compared with long line systems. In his research he discovered that the upper 10 feet of the long lines tend to grow the highest concentrations of mussels per foot because that is where the water tends to have the highest levels of nutrients.

the Fish Site Editor

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