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August 18, 2019 - The Vegan Authority


Mussels - the canaries of the sea

Mussels - the canaries of the sea
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Mussels feed by taking in phytoplankton, and in the process can filter through up to 25 litres of water a day.  As the water pumps and filters through their gills in order to feed and breathe, mussels store almost everything else that passes through.

Inadvertently, pollutants can collect such as microplastics containing bisphenol A and phthalates, both thought to be endocrine disrupters. Unfortunately for mussels, scientists see this as an opportunity to use mussels as "bio-indicators" to guage the health of the seas, lakes and rivers they inhabit.

Biologist Leila Meistertzheim heads a study for France’s Tara Ocean Foundation using mussels to gauge the health of the estuaries of the Thames, Elba and Seine rivers. The mussels are placed in fish traps, submerged in the waters for a month before researchers dissect them to determine what chemical substances are lurking in their tissues.

There is talk, at some point in the future, of deploying mussels into the world's oceans to absorb the microplastics so ubiquitously found across the globe, even recently in arctic ice. Concern is not for what effects ingesting microplastics has on the mussels, but rather if these mussels are safe for carnists to eat. While scientists are still evaluating the issue of microplastics on human health, a recent report by WWF concluded that humans ingest an average of 5 grams of microplastics a week — about the weight of a credit card.

Mussels are currently being deployed in waterways affected by eutrophication. This is a situation where waters are depleted of oxygen due to dense growth of plant life, depriving animal life of needed oxygen. What feeds the growth of algae is commonly an excessive runoff from the land containing phosphates and nitrites, such as detergents, fertilizers and sewage. Mussels 'recycle' these nutrients by feeding on the algae.

“Eutrophication … is the biggest problem of the Baltic Sea, the most urgent one,” said project head Lena Tasse. Mussels “could be part of a solution.” In fact many have been put to work in a pilot project titled Baltic Blue Growth in Sweden, Denmark and the Baltic countries where they are ultimately fed to animals such as chickens, fish and pigs, thus perpetuating the cycle.

Speciesism — Feature Articles

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