Blue mussel beds

What is it?

Blue mussel beds include intertidal and subtidal beds of the blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) in a range of conditions from open coasts to estuaries, marine inlets and deeper offshore habitats. Very common all around the coast of the British Isles, with large commercial beds in the Wash, Morecambe Bay, Conway Bay and the estuaries of south-west England, north Wales, and west Scotland.

What’s special about it?

The spaces between the mussels provide refuges for a diverse community of species, including winkles, small shore crabs and anemones. In the sediments beneath there can be a range of species such as the sandmason, lugworms and ragworm, amongst others, whilst starfish and larger crabs can be found feeding on the mussels.

How do we benefit?

Blue mussel beds are an important part of a healthy functioning marine ecosystem, having a role in coastal sediment dynamics, acting as a food source for over-wintering waders, and providing an enhanced area of biodiversity in an otherwise sediment-dominated environment. They also play a role in water purification, tackling pollution and in the cycle of trace and other important elements (e.g. oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon), critical for all life. Mussels can be used as a fertiliser and can be farmed, which provides business opportunities and employment.

How could development affect it?

• Commercial fisheries: mussels are damaged through removal, and smothering from use of mobile fishing gear.
• Water Quality: pollutants in seawater accumulate in the mussels and can lethal to them.
• Coastal development: physical damage and displacement due to infrastructure development, dredging, trenching and cable/pipe-laying.
• Anchoring: physical damage from sustained anchoring and mooring chains.
• Bait digging: removal of mussels as fishing bait and physical damage from associated trampling.
• Harvesting of seed mussels for aquaculture.

Find out more>>
MarLIN – The Marine Life Information Network, General Information
MarLIN – The marine Life Information Network, Learning Zone
MarLIN - The marine Life Information Network, Biodiversity and Conservation
UKBAP List of Priority Habitats