Green Mussel

Invasion of The Green Mussel

Chances are the mussel served with a seafood platter in most restaurants is not a green mussel. Nor are you apt to find green mussels for sale in most places where fresh seafood is sold. Of the 17 or so edible species of mussel, the one most likely to be found on a North American dinner plate or at the supermarket is the Atlantic blue mussel. Next in popularity, or at least next in terms or relative abundance, would be the Mediterranean mussel, which has adapted nicely to the waters of the Pacific Northwest. The green color of the Green mussel does not refer to the color of the flesh, nor is it an indicator that the mussel in question should not be eaten, but rather refers to the color of the shell.

As far as the green mussels are concerned, there is the New Zealand Green Lipped mussel, a tasty delicacy which is grown in mussel farms in New Zealand, and because it is very rich in Omega- 3 fatty acids, it is the basic ingredient for a number of commercial nutritional supplements. Mussels are considered to be richer in Omega-3 fatty acids than any other seafood. One won't find fresh Green Lipped mussels in North America, though they can be purchased frozen in some locations.

An Asian Native - So, what about the plain old Green mussel? This is an Asian mussel, inhabiting tropical waters, especially around Thailand where it is considered somewhat of a delicacy. This Asian species is not terribly large, especially in the wild state. Even those commercially farmed are much smaller than the Atlantic mussel, not much bigger than a human thumb. Of course the same could be said about many mushrooms, and small size isn't always enough to deter anyone from gathering or commercially farming something when a sizable market exists for it. For that matter, while the New Zealand Green Lipped mussel is slightly larger, it isn't all that much larger.

Hitchhiked To Florida - The Green mussel has within the past few years been observed in the Caribbean area and in Florida, primarily in the Tampa Bay area. Does this appearance herald a new chapter in North American seafood production? Hardly. For one thing, the Green mussel cannot live in waters much colder than found in the Florida Gulf, so it is unlikely to spread, up the Atlantic coast for example. This is a blessing, as the Green mussel is better known as an invasive species which generally fouls up equipment, covers anything submerged, and is in most cases too small to make a meal of, as several hundred can cover a square foot of space. Furthermore, should the water they flourish in be in any way polluted, they would likely not be fit to eat.

Green mussels do provide a benefit of sorts in that they filter particulate matter from water. A mussel can find a good supply of food, food we can barely see, in a liter of seawater, filtering and digesting small organisms from that water. Unfortunately, while filtering water, the Green mussel crowds out just about every other bivalve or mollusk which would like to attach itself to something. Thus any benefit it may provide is usually balanced by the nuisance the mussel can easily become.

Florida's Problem - Because of its water temperature limitations, the green mussel is not likely to spread beyond Floridian waters. Still, its invasive nature presents a problem. It's not an easy problem to solve, since anything introduced to the water designed to kill of the green mussel is very apt to kill off the desirable marine life as well. In the meantime, marine industries as well as private boat owners will have to get by with periodic inspections and scraping away of the troublesome little green bivalves.