Strengthening sustainability of wild mussel harvesting

WWF South Africa and the rope grown mussel fishery

Amount awarded: £49,993

This project is supporting the South African rope grown mussel fishery to meet the MSC Fisheries Standard by developing better ways to avoid harming endangered, threatened and protected species (ETP). 

The fishery grows mussel spat (juvenile oysters) from the wild in Saldanha Bay in the Western Cape. The settled spat grow on ropes suspended from longlines or rafts for around a year before being harvested.

The two mussel species grown are the indigenous black mussel (Chloromytilus meridionalis) and the Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis).

Together with WWF South Africa the fishery has successfully implemented a fishery improvement project (FIP) to help progress towards MSC assessment. The FIP is driven by a project steering committee that includes:

Its progress is verified through the In-Transition to MSC program which makes it eligible to apply for Ocean Stewardship Funding.

The fishery is also part of Fish For Good which is a four-year project aimed at guiding fisheries in South Africa, Indonesia and Mexico towards more sustainable fishing practices.

Monitoring impacts to the wider environment

To effectively manage and mitigate risks to the local environment, site managers have been trained to spot and report endangered species, and to develop environmental management plans.

The environmental impacts of cleaning off parasites at the fishery are also being monitored. Unwanted aquatic species settling on surfaces - called ‘biofouling' – can be a problem in fishing.  Boats often used anti-fouling paint to prevent barnacles attaching themselves to boats, because they create drag and increase fuel costs.

But other organisms damage the industry by settling on shellfish themselves. Parasites that attach themselves can reduce the survival of mussels, or make them so heavy that the longlines to which they are attached break off.

To stop this happening, the fishery uses cleaning agents to wash dangerous or unwanted organisms from the mussel lines. To ensure there is no long-term impact on the surrounding seabed habitat, a biofouling management strategy is being developed to understand and mitigate any effects.

Watch video

Saldanha Bay mussels: Well-managed fishery provides long-term benefits to local community


I am excited to receive this funding because it will increase the focus on improving the sustainability of fisheries of the developing world.

Craig Smith WWF South Africa
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