Unique mussel farm in the city centre – but can you eat them?
In Helsingborg harbour, a unique mussel farm is cultivating underwater. Over 60 residents are involved in the marine colony. The goal is to determine if eating mussels grown in an urban harbour is possible.
In one of the former harbours situated in Helsingborg, where used to stand shipyards and loading quays, now stand homes, offices and hotels. Development in the area is continuous but not limited to just above the water line; a unique mussel farm is flourishing below the surface. The mussels, clinging to long nets under the surface, are some of the first to be cultivated in the middle of an urban harbour.
Annelie Eckeskog is an environmental strategist and marine biologist. A City of Helsingborg employee responsible for the project and she shares:
”It started already when we planned Oceanhamnen. We didn’t just want boat moorings, we wanted to do something more. We have over five kilometres of quayside where we have removed nature to build. There have been beaches with shallow bottoms that no longer exist. This is a way of giving back to the sea.”
Nature Coming Back to The Harbour
The mussel farm is part of a larger project within the city. Nearby, an artificial reef consisting of large boulders and a quayside with animal-friendly hole structures has been installed to promote underwater wildlife. Also, during the H22 City Expo in the summer of 2022, the city set up a temporary aquarium, Havoteket, to spread knowledge and educate about our oceans and marine sustainability issues.
”All projects are about being a better neighbour to the sea, taking care of it, helping biodiversity and raising awareness of the state of the sea.” says Annelie Eckeskog.
The initial round of mussel cultivating took place in the Summer of 2023. The process required the collection of existing mussels from a checkpoint in the Öresund, which were then attached to the long cultivating nets. It would have been possible to wait for the tiny mussel larvae floating around in the sea to bind themselves, but due to the limited time of the project, this is not currently possible. It naturally takes three to four years for mussel larvae to attach, grow and become large.
Mussels to be Tested for Environmental Toxins
The project will run until Autumn 2024, and the mussels will be tested for environmental toxins and undergo all the necessary food controls. One of the most critical aspects of the project is to find out whether it is possible to eat mussels grown in an urban harbour.
”There are old environmental sins in the harbour, but we have dealt with them during the construction. Samples that we take from mussels in other places are below the limit values. And the flow of water is good.” says Annelie Eckeskog.
Great Interest – 65 Residents Manage the Cultivation
Another unique aspect of the project is that it is not the City of Helsingborg that grows the mussel crops. The residents do it; currently, 65 residents are participating in the project, but many more want to be involved. The current caretakers are part of the cultivation team that shares the care and responsibility. One of the main tasks is to clear the mussel beds of algae, which inhibits the mussels’ ability to filter water and grow.
”The biggest common denominator is that everyone loves to eat mussels. Then there are some who find the sea colony exciting, and some are divers and generally interested in the marine environment.” says Annelie Eckeskog.
If the project is successful, the idea is to form a marine colony association. Several suitable cultivation sites in the new Oceanhamnen have already been identified.