The sexy secret behind hatchery-reared mussels which could add $200 million to our economy

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Hatchery-reared mussels could add up to $200 million to the New Zealand economy following a breakthrough in Nelson and there's a sexy secret behind the success.

Mike Thorpe heads to Nelson to find the secret behind the success.
Source: Seven Sharp

Scientists have reared green lipped muscles on a commercial scale in what's huge news for a $1 billion industry, Seven Sharp reported.

Sarah Cumming of Shellfish Production and Technology New Zealand (SPATNZ) says this has taken a few decades.

"Perna caniliculus, or the green shelled mussel, are actually quite a hard species to rear," she said.

The scientific breakthrough began in a mussel hatchery in Nelson where Seven Sharp found mussels were in a warm bath.

"Then we'll come in with a cold hose and give them a tickle just to to sort of simulate storm-type conditions," Ms Cumming said.

"Interesting fact is that the boys do tend to spawn before the girls."

So they developed a trick for the more modest mussels, pumping water to create an oscillation, which promoted female spawning and out came the eggs.

Hatchery-raised spat are reared in the hatchery and then transferred to mussel farms.

Until now, baby mussels came entirely from the sea and mussel farmers were at nature's mercy.

"The wild spat that the industry catches in the sea varies from year to year based on the El Nino and La Nina weather patterns," said Ted Culley from the mussel industry.

Now, with hatchery-reared spat, mussel farms have consistency, and Mr Culley thinks this makes green lipped mussels more sustainable.

He sees hatchery-rearing as "the biggest step change that we've seen" since the industry started.

The breakthrough has the potential to add up to $200 million to the economy.

Ms Cumming said the first batch of mussels from the hatchery, that were reared in February 2015, are ready for harvest right now "which is amazing".

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