‘Black mussel’ wreaks havoc on Cagayan coastal towns

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TUGUEGARAO CITY, Cagayan: A foreign marine species was found to be destroying fishery livelihood projects in at least six coastal towns in the province, according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) here.

BFAR officials said this non-indigenous species called “black mussels” has been observed in the towns of Claveria, Sanchez Mira, Pamplona, Buguey, Lallo and Aparri.

Max Prudencio of the BFAR said the species has caught the fishery bureau’s attention “due to its rapid proliferation and reported damage to fishery livelihood projects, particularly oyster rafts and fish cages.”

The black mussel which the BFAR tentatively identified as Arcuatula arcuatula is way smaller that green mussel (tahong) with a maximum length of five centimeters only and has been noted to thrive in waters of lower salinity. It attaches or clings to hard objects and forms very dense colony like the green mussel.

“The [black]mussel has been noted to colonize oyster hangs thereby displacing the oyster stocks and also attaches to fish cage nets resulting in poor water exchange and causes the nets to rapidly deteriorate,” Prudencio said.

Like most bivalves or aquatic mollusk, mussels are filter feeders which fishery experts claim may cause possible damage to the ecosystem because they feed on natural food particularly minute plant and animal life.

They said the rapid reproduction and voracious appetite of these black mussels might cause the depletion of natural food and as such, they compete with native or indigenous fish species.

Ironically, Prudencio said, black mussel reportedly now provides livelihood to residents of Minanga village in Sanchez Mira town.

“They sell these mussels for P50 a kilo as human food,” he said.

Meanwhile, BFAR region 2 director Milagros Morales said her office has initiated the formation of an inter-agency technical working group (TWG) to look into the occurrence of black mussel within coastal areas of this province.
Morales said that during the multi-sectoral consultative meeting last month, the agency identified four key areas for the proposed intervention on research, product development, resource management and on legal.

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