Mussel aquaculture sector transcript

Commentary: Victoria has a long history of blue mussel aquaculture with these tasty bivalves having been farmed in the State since the 1970s.

Until recently, Victoria was the largest mussel producer in Australia but due to a range of environmental factors, the availability of juvenile mussels in the wild has become less reliable which has seen industry production decrease.

DPI researchers and an industry group tackled this problem by developing a pilot scale shellfish hatchery at Queenscliff to produce a reliable supply of juvenile mussels.

This hard work is paying off, with production in 2010/11 approaching historical peaks with 951 tonnes of mussels produced.

Mussel farming is one of the most sustainable forms of aquaculture in the world. It involves growing mussels naturally by suspending them on ropes where they feed on alga in the water. No chemical or feed inputs are required at sea and the growing process helps reduces nutrient levels in our bays.

Mussels are grown in aquaculture reserves in Port Phillip Bay and Western Port.

Once at sea, the juvenile mussels will be left to feed and grow naturally for about 12 to 18 months until they reach market size.

The mussels are harvested from the ropes at sea and are sorted on the boat before being delivered to shore for cool storage and prepared for the markets.

All mussels destined for the table are harvested from sites that are monitored under a strict water monitoring program to ensure the product is suitable for harvest and complies with relevant state and national food safety requirements.

Mussel farming is an important regional employer and the development of the industry will see improved job opportunities for regional Victorians.

Many consumers consider the Australian blue mussel to be superior to imported product and this is understandable as blue mussels are predominantly sold as a fresh, live product in Australian markets.

With continued success, the Victorian mussel industry is poised to reclaim its title as Australia's leading mussel producer.