Mussel farming is an activity that generates significant amounts of plastic waste. Research results show that mussel nets are among the top 10 litter items found on beaches of the Adriatic basin and the third most abundant litter item found on the seafloor of the northern Adriatic basin. The presence of mussel farming related litter is a serious problem for the Miramare MPA, located in the outskirts of the city of Trieste in Italy. Mussel farming activities in the area are very intense, producing some 3,550 tons of mussels per year. Beach litter surveys revealed a high abundance of litter items from mussel nets and polystyrene fish boxes in the MPA, thus calling for action.
Within this context, the Management Body of the Miramare MPA kicked-off a demo action to address this problem. The action, which is implemented within the framework of the Plastic Busters MPAs project, aims to raise the awareness of the aquaculture sector on the marine litter problem and to promote sustainable management practices for mussel farming. The action will focus on identifying best practices for the sustainable management of mussel nets, while also the option of alternative materials for mussel nets (i.e. cotton) will be explored and an optimum solution will be setup and implemented. Producers will be informed and trained accordingly to adopt more environmental-friendly practices during mussel farming operations.
Specifically, the Management Body of the Miramare MPA in collaboration with the Giuliano Maricoltori Consortium -a local fishermen association- will look into the characteristics of different materials originating from plants in order to assess their potential in replacing the mussel nets made from synthetic polymers. The use of the latter materials for mussel nets have been on the rise in the last decades due to their technical and economic benefits. Only recently, however, it has been realized that this “enhanced performance” comes with environmental cost.