Mussels – a type of shellfish found in both fresh and saltwater – have become an increasingly popular food over the past few years. In 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization estimated mussel production at 2.2 million tons, a number that has more than doubled in a span of ten years. And almost 94% of that world mussel production comes not from catching these shellfish in the wild – but from aquaculture.
Aquaculture is the breeding, raising, and harvesting of plants and animals in aquatic environments – i.e., “like farming in water.” Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food production forms in the world, likely because of its many benefits. Not only can practitioners produce food to eat and sell themselves – thereby increasing food and economic security – but they can also reduce fishing pressure on wild stocks of species, allowing them to replenish themselves and their habitats to recover.
These economic, social, and environmental benefits make aquaculture an attractive option in places like Mozambique, where 40% of the population lives along the country’s 2,700 km of coastline. A new project, led by the National Institute for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (IDEPA) and supported by UNEP-Nairobi Convention, aims to develop a viable and sustainable community-based mussel aquaculture system in Inhaca Island, Mozambique, using the locally available mussel species Perna perna.
On the shores of Inhaca, a small island separating Maputo Bay from the Indian Ocean, the project implementers will first identify a location for mussel cultivation and meet with interested community members. At least 40 community members will be trained in how to rear, care for and harvest the mussels over a 1500 square meter cultivation area. The project will then construct the mussel culture system. A fattening system – whereby the mussels will be left to grow larger so that they fetch a higher price at market – will be built. Mussel seeds will be collected in the wild environment and then transported to the culture system. Finally, community members will learn how to monitor and maintain the culture system. IDEPA hopes that the project will become self-sustaining after one year, though technical support will still be available to the community if needed.
A successful aquaculture system on Inhaca could have impacts that are felt far beyond the island. The low-cost techniques used in this project could be replicated across Mozambique’s coast and potentially around the Western Indian Ocean region. The project will also help Mozambique achieve its commitments under Sustainable Development Goal 14.2, under which it committed to sustainably manage and protect its marine and coastal ecosystems.
The initiative is being funded by the Global Environment Facility through the Western Indian Ocean Large Marine Ecosystems Strategic Action Programme Policy Harmonization and Institutional Reforms (SAPPHIRE) project, executed by the Nairobi Convention and implemented by UNDP. The project promotes policy and institutional reform to help improve the management of the Western Indian Ocean Large Marine Ecosystems. It is building capacity among governments, communities, partners, intergovernmental organizations and the private sector in sustainable resource management and ocean governance.
For more on SAPPHIRE’s demonstration projects, click here.