Mussels range in color from purple to blue to blue/black and can be found attached to many substrates – such as rocks, pilings and ropes – by small golden threads called byssus threads or beards. To grow mussels then they must be hung in the water, unlike clams which grow under the gravel and sand or oysters which like to sit on a flat surface.
One millimeter seed from the hatchery is sprinkled on fibrous substrate where they will attach with their byssus threads. The mussels can attach in a matter of a few hours. The substrate with mussels is hung, suspended, in the water to grow in dense masses.
After letting the mussels grow to about 3 mm the substrate is cut up and the pieces are hung in lantern nets allowing the mussels to grow out to harvest size. It is important to hang just the right amount of seed into each tray of the lantern so the mussels do not over crowd and die or grow out through the netting. (see Predators to know what happens.)
When mussels are small they fall prey to flat worms and perch who find them tasty treats so the substrate is soaked in fresh water to rid the mussels of the flat worms. Nets are put around the lantern nets to exclude the perch. As the mussels grow they are also preyed on by starfish which arrive as tiny larvae and grow among the mussels in the nets. There is little to be done about that except hope the starfish keep drifting by our nets. The scoter ducks also love mussels. The ducks over winter in Totten Inlet after spending the summer breeding in the far north. The ducks dive down to take any mussels sticking out of the nets and would clean a lantern net completely out if they could get into it.
Only the amount of mussels needed for that days order are pulled out of the water each time. On harvest days mussels are pulled out of the bay, washed down with sea water and taken to shore to be culled. After culling the mussels are bagged and iced.This ensures the freshest mussels possible.
Clean water makes it possible to have shellfish businesses. If the water is clean enough to harvest and eat shellfish then the water is clean enough to swim in. Partnering with other shellfish companies, upland landowners, tribes,county and state we are all working to assure the extremely valuable and beautiful Puget Sound ecosystem remains alive and healthy.