Sustainable Chilean Mussel Spats
Our sourcing manager Nick just recently visited our Chilean rope grown mussel supplier, Ria Austral. This aquaculture holds the Friend Of The Sea certification, and it is now in the process of obtaining the ASC certification.
His journey, more than 20 hours long, brought him to Santiago, and another two hours travel finally led him to the coastal town of Puerto Montt. From there, our Nick was shown how the rope farmed mussel operation works, focusing on the harvesting of young mussels, or spat, that finish their growing cycle on the ropes of the farm.
Female wild mussels live on the seafloor of specially conserved areas release their eggs during spawning season, which are then fertilised by males. The fertilised eggs then develop into a free-swimming larval stage which last around 30 days, which would normally give them an opportunity to find new rocky sites to latch onto and make new mussel beds.
It is during this time that the collecting areas put out strips of weighted netting hung from ropes to which the some of the spat (very young mussels) can attach themselves. Once attached to the netting the young mussels start to feed and grow into the shape we know.
These weighted ropes, called collectors, are hung 4 meters below the surface, as the first 4 meters of water have a lower salinity due to fresh water run of from the surrounding hills and rivers, so that they sit in the salt seawater where they remain until they are large enough to be brought to the mussel farm.
Once the collectors arrive at the farm, spat of 2.5cm or larger are put straight onto ropes. The mussels take 9 to 10 months to fully grow from the time they are collected as spat. Smaller mussels are put into the water to allow them to grow to the required size. Although there’s not certification available for spat cultivation, the spat farming areas used by Ria Austral always make sure that only a small percentage of the new mussels are collected and brought to the rope grown mussel farm, ensuring the sustainability of the operation.
Chile is not the only place we source delicious and sustainable mussels from. Click here to learn more about our Danish mussels.