Half A Million Mussels Found “Cooked To Death” On A Beach In New Zealand

This event could indicate the loss of the New Zealand green lipped mussels from their namesake country. C E Newman/ Shutterstock

Katy Pallister 18 Feb 2020, 20:21

Note: Some of the wording in this article was altered slightly to specify the mussel deaths were likely the result of "heat-stress" and low-tides.

Whilst walking along Maunganui Bluff Beach in New Zealand’s North Island, resident Brandon Ferguson made a startling discovery: hundreds of thousands of mussels cooked to death. “Heat-stress” from lying in the Sun and mid-day low tides are thought to be responsible.

In a video recently posted on Facebook, Ferguson could not hide his shock at the mass of dead mussels.

Pre-warning: there is some strong language in the following video.

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"It smelled like dead rotting seafood," Ferguson told Business Insider. "Some of the mussels were empty, some of them were dead... Some were just floating around in the tide."

The type of mussels along the coastline were the New Zealand green-lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus), so-called because of the colorful markings around their edges. A shellfish economically important to New Zealand, it is also one of the largest mussel species.

Ferguson was out on the coast gathering food with his friends and family when they came across swathes of them. Concerns for the green lipped mussels were raised last year in a report by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ, which laid out the state of New Zealand’s marine environment and how climate change is affecting its life.

Amongst other findings, the study found that from 1981 to 2018, sea surface temperatures increased between 0.1°C and 0.2°C every decade. The report explained that warming seas could affect the timing and development of green-lipped mussel larvae. 

However, it is not just rising sea-temperatures that prove threatening to the mussels. Lying exposed in the scorching summer Sun likely added to the “heat-stress” the mussels were under, Andrew Jeffs, a marine scientist at the University of Auckland, told the New Zealand Herald. “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 told The Herald, as quoted by Business Insider.

The mussel graveyard was found days after New Zealand’s North Island recorded an inland temperature of 40°C (104°F) for the first time in at least 15 years. Record-breaking temperatures have already been recorded this year in other parts of the world, from Norway to Antarctica.

Ferguson hopes that by sharing his video the global community will be able to see the effects of climate change happening right beside him.

"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."

[H/T: Business Insider]

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