Mussel harvesting in Frenchman Bay
In Maine blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) are harvested both from the wild and from aquaculture. Aquaculture harvest occurs in two ways. The main technique used in Maine for mussel aquaculture is to grow mussels attached to ropes that are either hung vertically from buoys or rafts or are grown on horizontal ropes, typically near the surface.
A second technique used in aquaculture is bottom culture, where a section of the subtidal bottom is leased to only allow the leaseholder to drag in the area, so that they can seed the area, manage the area by dragging to thin the area or remove predators, and ultimately harvest a crop. Seed for the area is currently gathered from wild seed.
There are several companies that harvest mussels in Frenchman Bay.
Details of their leases can be found on the List of aquaculture leases page.
Acadia Aqua Farms. Theo and Fiona de Koning. They have several standard leases for bottom culture in Frenchman Bay and elsewhere, and a processing plant in Trenton on the Jordan River. They also have a proposed standard lease in Eastern Bay for seed collection of mussels on lines that would be transferred to their bottom leases (seed for their leases is currently gathered from wild seed). 48 acres. Application.
Moosabec Mussels. Ralph Smith. They have one standard lease for bottom culture in Frenchman Bay, but also harvest wild mussels. Moosabec is based in Jonesport.
Mussel Bound Inc. Erick Swanson. 3.4 acres. Experimental lease. Suspended culture of mussels. Also spat collection on site. Ropes are hung from a raft, which is a repurposed perimeter of a fish pen. Mussel bound also has a lease in Blue Hill Bay.
Pemaquid Mussel Farms. Carter Newell & Tim Levesque. Standard lease 8 acres. Suspended mussels and kelp. East of Googins Ledge in Eastern Bay. They also have a Facebook page. Pemaquid Mussel Farms is applying to expand this lease.
For wild harvest, fishermen use either bottom drags from their boats or rake for them from large dories that they load with mussels, and then typically take back to the boat for washing and sizing. Undersize mussels are immediately returned to the bottom. Both dragging and raking occur in Frenchman Bay. However, dragging for mussels is severely limited in the summer in the subtidal due to the large amount of stationary gear (lobster traps) in the water. During this time, draggers avoid areas with dense gear to avoid entanglement, and their work is restricted to locations where traps do not exist, either in the intertidal or places with not enough lobsters to attract traps. East of Frenchman Bay, virtually all mussel beds are subtidal and difficult to harvest in the summer and fall, which leads to relatively heavy harvesting of mussels in Frenchman Bay during this time.