Ebre river delta mussel production to drop by 15% due to heat and drought

Locals uncertain about effects of sea water sea water being unprecedentedly hot and salty

Mussels just harvested in the Ebre river delta region on May 23, 2023
Mussels just harvested in the Ebre river delta region on May 23, 2023 / Anna Ferràs

ACN | @agenciaacn | Barcelona

May 23, 2023 02:45 PM

May 23, 2023 05:41 PM

The Ebre river delta mussel production will drop by between 10% and 20% due to the heat and the ongoing drought, according to estimations made by producers.

The area is especially famous for harvesting such mollusks, along with oysters and clams.

The very hot summer last year caused significant death of the breeding, which has obliged producers to buy it from Italy and Greece, but they have bought less than usual given the price – it used to cost €0.67 per kilo three years ago, but it is sold at €1.10 now.

Indeed, the price for customers are also set to increase this season to between €4 and €5 per kilo – the average cost was €3.8 per kilo last year.

Also, the water is much saltier than usual, given the fact that there is less water flowing from the canals – the ongoing drought led to authorities applying some restrictions on the flow.

Mussel prices "are high because the costs are high," according to producers. "Because of the costs, there will be a lot of mussel farmers who will have difficulties covering their costs." / Catalan News

Another factor contributing to a gloomy season is the unusually high water temperature, now at between 20ºC and 21ºC.

Unprecedented conditions

The conditions are so exceptional and the drought situation is so uncertain that some producers have decided to not harvest mussel this year because they do not want to "risk" potential losses, according to Fepromodel, the federation of mollusks in the Ebre delta river.

This entity explained on Wednesday that such conditions are unprecedented and there are no precedents of how the current mussel campaign can pan out.

"Until the season ends we will not be able to assess it, we have never witnessed such a situation," said Fepromodel's manager, Gerardo Bonet.

According to him, the lack of fresh water lowers the level of oxygen for such invertebrates.

Need to adapt to climate change

Bonet believes producers have to adapt to climate change and start campaigns before, as well as trying to harvest more oysters.

Due to the extremely hot temperatures last August, with sea water values of up to 30ºC for six weeks in a row, 150,000 kg of mussels were lost in the Ebre delta area and 1 million kg of breeding were also killed.

While around 3 million kilos of mussels will be harvested this year, down from 3.5 million last year, the production of oyster is around 500,000 kg a year.