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johnnyd

Mussel Farming in Maine

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What a terrific report! This is the stuff that the Net was made for. The ingenuity of these guys is remarkable. Thanks!

Couple of questions -

Where does the packing ice come from? Do they haul it out each day or is there an ice machine on board the raft?

Are there any rivalries or territorial spats between mussel farmers like there are between lobstermen? Any quaint & amusing initiation rituals for newbies, similar to new lobster guys periodically finding their trap buoys cut & adrift for their first year or so in the biz until the locals decide grudgingly to accept their presence on the waters?

Any regulations that say where you can (& cannot) establish a mussel farm?


Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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johnnyd   

Ice is purchased by the quarter ton from Vessel Services, a marine service and supply warehouse on Portland's waterfront, and kept in that big blue box on the boat. It keeps for days in that thing and is replenished as needed.

Are there any rivalries or territorial spats between mussel farmers like there are between lobstermen? Any quaint & amusing initiation rituals for newbies, similar to new lobster guys periodically finding their trap buoys cut & adrift for their first year or so in the biz until the locals decide grudgingly to accept their presence on the waters?

Any regulations that say where you can (& cannot) establish a mussel farm?

The aquaculture gig is still in it's infancy so those kind of things are still developing. I suppose Bernie and Tolof are in the position to start a tradition or two, eh? :biggrin:

Out of state residents have complained bitterly about the compressor noise. Aqua Farms was sued by some joker from Florida, claiming "noise pollution" but it was dismissed. Part of the suit declared the raft as "navigational hazards" but that was defeated too.

The positioning of these rafts do take a lot of consideration in that regard, but the state is very pro-aquaculture in view of the drop in traditional fishing revenues, so much effort is made to support the rafts where feasible.


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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johnnyd   

Mussel Seeding

For the past two days I have been back on the mussel raft helping "seed" the ropes upon which farmed mussels grow. We met around dawn at a local boat launch where a flatbed truck dropped mussels of various small sizes from five big insulated cubes. They came from AquaFarm's Blue Hill station where they are grown on smaller ropes from mussel spat.

First, we took the boat out to the Bangs Island Raft to get about forty growing ropes,

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Matt and Bernie are used to maneuvering a-top the cross beams so falling in the cold (50F) seawater is just not an option.

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The mackerel are starting to chase baitfish into Casco Bay so when the water suddenly erupts in a million little splashes the guys drop everything and cast a line or three. :cool:


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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johnnyd   

Mussel Seeding - part 2

The seeding machine is a compressor operated device that feeds the grow-rope, or "dropper", into a stainless steel tube at one end, where it is then surrounded by tiny mussels and wrapped in bio-degradable netting.

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Here, the hopper holds micro-mussels measuring about a quarter inch.

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Matt makes sure everything comes out okay, then hops over to the appropriate beam to tie it off. Matt has been "musseling" for a while. He has the perfect combination of smarts, reliability and being an all-around nice guy that the working waterfront in Maine holds in very high regard. Usually, one of those three things is missing. :wink:

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Notice the spool of colored cotton netting by Bernie's leg. That races around a rubber track and "seals" the first net layer, within which resides the tiny mussels and the dropper.

And into the water it goes...

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"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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johnnyd   

Mussel Seeding - part 3

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A convention of cormorants nearby tells us that there is a feeding frenzy going on somewhere in the water...

...so a break in seeding is in order to tie a mackerel jig on the line.

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The hopper now has larger mussels measuring a little over an inch. Thirty of the forty droppers were these larger ones. They will be ready to harvest in October.

My job was to help de-clump and clean the seedings before they are wrapped around the dropper, then shovel them into the hopper. I'd estimate the total at over 4000 lbs. I am one sore dude right now... :blink: but I did manage to catch four mackerel.


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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I have been ordering our mussels from Browne for many years now by the 10# bag or something equivalent. These are without a doubt the freshest mussels one can obtain today. In the 1950's we spent the summers in Maine and would use the mussels we got off the rocks at low tide for bait as there was no market for them. Eventually the wild mussels caught on with folks. My only comment is that the flavor is much milder than the wild variety.

Thanks for the great picture show!-Dick

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johnnyd   

Summer in Maine means lots and lots of people want seafood so harvesters are working full bore to keep up with demand.

So it's time to get back out on Aqua Farms LLC mussel rafts to help harvest what we seeded last June.

Unfortunately, we have to do it in some heavy rain that has fetched up right on top of Casco Bay...

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These are about 100 pounds of freshly scrubbed mussels harvested yesterday morning.

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Bernie tells me they come from the very ropes we wrapped in biodegradable gauze filled with

micro mussels that gradually attached themselves and grew to market size.

Here is johnnyd weighing ten-pound bags destined for restaurants in New York and Boston.

If anyone down there orders "Bangs Island Mussels" on the menu this weekend

(or a bit later depending on the distributor), I hid a miniature sea urchin in this one, so if you find it, call me for your prize.

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:raz:


Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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Jmahl   

Remarkable. Bravo.

Jmahl


The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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Country   

I hate to be the one to announce this, but Great Eastern Mussel Company has gone out of business. They were among the first to get into large scale mussel aquaculture on the coast of Maine, and their large tractor-trailer reefer was for years a familiar sight going through Waldoboro headed south on Route 1 on their way out of Tenant's Harbor.

Great Eastern Mussel Farm General Manager Michael Hallundbaek made the announcement Monday afternoon, saying the decision to close was driven by several years of increased regulatory demands and competition from Canadian mussel growers, as well as rising energy costs.

Frank Simon of Hope was a co-founder of Great Eastern with Endicott "Chip" Davison in 1978. He recalls introducing the mussel as a commercial seafood item.

"We were pioneers of the mussel industry," Simon said. "Great Eastern was an innovator. We created the market for mussels in America at least 10 years ahead of the first Canadian product."

:sad:

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johnnyd   

Thanks for that Country.

I found that out a week ago which is when AquaFarm's phone started ringing off the hook - thus my trip out to harvest with them. In fact, I'm going again tomorrow - all of a sudden, they are the only game in town (this town anyway) and the quality is just way better than PEI's right now.

Great Eastern's demise is most regrettable. The popularity of cultured mussels is growing and sustainable. Why are they closing up then? I'll try to find some answers.


Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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As a mussel-lover, I say great pix and reporting!

Your mussels went from zero to market size in a year? That's some good nutrient-rich growing conditions.

I notice quite a quality spectrum with mussels over the summer. Right now the good ones are from Newfoundland - very large and plump.


Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Country   
Great Eastern's demise is most regrettable. The popularity of cultured mussels is growing and sustainable. Why are they closing up then? I'll try to find some answers.

johnnyd, It would be interesting to know what happened with Great Eastern. Somehow, it seems strange that they would close so suddenly, with no warning, for the reasons they gave to the press.

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johnnyd   
Your mussels went from zero to market size in a year? That's some good nutrient-rich growing conditions.

Indeed. There seems to be less pressure on the little beast when the business of living on a rock is eliminated. When you're attached to a rope, the current and tides go to and fro, bringing in nutrients to filter-feed from all directions. The only predators are ducks, who are kept away by netting set around the rafts.

it seems strange that they would close so suddenly, with no warning, for the reasons they gave to the press.

Yeah, even though the village soup article seemed informative, something else is going on. The only thing I can think of is that the overhead was bloated, but I don't know anything so I can only speculate. I just know that the demand is there and not going away. The state regs problem might have just sent Chip and crew over the edge, so they threw up their hands and said "screw this". I'll see what AF posse can read into it tomorrow.


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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Your mussels went from zero to market size in a year? That's some good nutrient-rich growing conditions.

Indeed. There seems to be less pressure on the little beast when the business of living on a rock is eliminated. When you're attached to a rope, the current and tides go to and fro, bringing in nutrients to filter-feed from all directions. The only predators are ducks, who are kept away by netting set around the rafts.

My local mussel guy down the street says they have a problem with starfish on the long line. They aren't exactly agile but once established they can be voracious.

I wonder what starfish a tastes like . . . .


Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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johnnyd   
I wonder what starfish a tastes like . . . .

We find a couple at most per line, that's it. I've always wondered what the potential of these are as they are closely related to sea urchins. When I was diving for urchins, I would sometimes find masses of them all in a tangle in corners and canyons.

So far, they are just cool to have dried and posted somewhere on a wall.


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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