Mussel farming vital, Norfolk fishermen claim

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
27 June 2006, at 1:00am

UK - Norfolk fishermen are warning the ecology of The Wash will be damaged if mussel farming in the estuary is curtailed. Shellfish growers want the right to protect their mussel beds from Eider ducks, by using bird scarers to drive them away. But the RSPB claims shellfishing must return to a sustainable level to protect the long term future of both birds and fishermen. A four-day public inquiry, sitting in Boston, will today begin considering the issue. Fishermen say 90 per cent of the seed mussels they lay in The Wash are eaten by predators, mainly birds, before they grow large enough to harvest for the table. While the artificial fishery now provides the bulk of the mussel crop, they believe spawn carried out to sea from their shellfish beds is helping natural stocks recover, so providing more food for the birds. Neil Lake, director of King's Lynn-based John Lake Shellfish, said: "Eider duck can feed 24/7, whereas wading birds can only feed at low tide. They're eating on average 2.5kg a day per bird. "It's a lose-lose situation if we stop cultivating. Because the lays are getting used more, they're producing more spat (mussel spawn), which is helping repopulate the wild fishery." Source: EDP24