Wild blue mussels are disappearing from New England waters
PORTSMOUTH - Wild blue mussels are disappearing from New England waters.
According to a new University of California, Irvine report, the wild blue mussels are disappearing from the Gulf of Maine, where the mussel population has decreased by sixty percent in the past four decades. Increases in harvesting, invasive species, and warming water temperatures are responsible, according researchers.
“We do know that sea surface temperature has risen. Heat stress is definitely a factor implicated in the disappearance of these mussels,” said Stephen Jones, a professor and researcher at the University of New Hampshire.
The Gulf of Maine’s warmer waters have created another problem for shellfish. Warm water bacterium called vibrio bacteria, is migrating north into New England waters. Oysters, in particular, are being infected with the bacteria.
Incidents of people sickened by eating raw shellfish infected by certain strains of Vibrio, have increased more than 75 percent in the past several years. In Florida, four people have died this year after eating infected oysters.
Some strains of Vibrio bacteria are now being found in shellfish in the Gulf of Maine.
“It’s coming from who knows where, but it seems to be adaptable to warmer temperatures. Now we have a problem in the northeast,” added Jones.
One sure way to kill vibrio bacteria is to cook all shellfish.
Jones says he eats raw oysters but admits it can be risky.
“The oyster guys in New Hampshire are very aware of the vibrio problem. We’re trying to help them so they can continue to harvest without causing people to get sick,” he said.