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article imageHalf-a-million mussels cooked to death in waters off New Zealand

By Karen Graham     Feb 17, 2020 in Environment
The climate crisis has given us another casualty. Nearly 500,000 dead green-lipped mussels washed up on a beach in New Zealand after being cooked alive by rising ocean temperatures.
The climate crisis is causing more than extreme weather events in North America, the UK, and Europe. Warming ocean waters are also affecting marine life. The mass die-off of mussels occurred along the shores of Maunganui Bluff Beach in the Northland Region in New Zealand.
New Zealand resident Brandon Ferguson posted a video on Facebook from Maunganui Bluff Beach, showing the hundreds of thousands of dead mussels that had washed up on the shore.
Ferguson told Business Insider he came across the dead mussels while visiting the area with friends and family. The group had planned to gather mussels to eat when the tide went out, but instead found more than half a million of them already dead.
"It smelled like dead rotting seafood," Ferguson said "Some of the mussels were empty, some of them were dead ... Some were just floating around in the tide."
A New Zealand Green Lipped Mussel Farm near Havelock  South Island  New Zealand
A New Zealand Green Lipped Mussel Farm near Havelock, South Island, New Zealand
QFSE Media (CC BY-SA 3.0 NZ)
Ferguson said he had observed this very same thing in the past - on the very same beach - with different types of shellfish washing up dead along the shores. He blamed rising temperatures and warming sea waters for the phenomena. "It has happened in the past due to warm water temperatures, low mid-day tides, and high pressures," he said.
Marine scientist, Andrew Jeffs of the University of Auckland said the mussels likely died due to a condition known as "heat stress," which could be triggered by mid-day low tides and hot weather, according to the New Zealand Herald.
"The mussels die of heat stress. You imagine lying in the midday sun every day for four hours for the best part of a week. You'd be pretty sunburnt at the end of that," he said. Jeffs also warned that if the temperatures if New Zealand's oceans continue to increase, mussels and mollusks could soon disappear completely from the country.
"In many other countries, we are seeing a poleward movement of the distribution of the species as they adjust to temperature increases associated with climate change," he told The Herald. "I expect we may see the same in New Zealand."
Steamed green-lipped mussels
Steamed green-lipped mussels
Hans Jørn Storgaard Andersen (CC BY-SA 3.0)
As for Ferguson, he is not only wanting to share what is happening with the world, but he is taking it personally. "It's getting worse and worse every year," he told Business Insider. "At times like this, we should wake up and start respecting these places and pay attention to what is happening before we lose our taonga [a Māori word meaning 'treasure'] for good."
Perna canaliculus, the New Zealand green-lipped mussel, is also known as the New Zealand mussel, the green-shelled mussel or Kuku. This mussel is a bivalve mollusk in the family Mytilidae (the true mussels).
P. canaliculus is found all around New Zealand's mainland, usually found below the intertidal zone, but it can occur in the intertidal zone. It is also one of the largest mussel species, reaching up to 240 millimeters (9.4 inches) in length. P. canaliculus feeds on various types of phytoplankton.
The green-lipped mussel is also economically important to New Zealand. Aquaculture of the New Zealand green shell mussel runs the risk of being negatively impacted if the mussel die-offs should continue or become more frequent.
More about Climate crisis, Warming oceans, greenlipped mussels, New Zealand, dieoff of native species
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