Mussel growers in Charente-Maritime fear for their future after the numbers of adult mussels off the region’s coast plunged by 90% this year. The problem is blamed squarely on pollution and bad weather.
Government support is needed for the industry to survive, growers say.
Restaurant owners are turning to foreign suppliers to make up the shortfall. Dutch, Irish and Italian mussels are being imported so that locals can continue to enjoy their moules frites.
For me, mussels have been off the menu for some years. I have tried mussels twice in my life – and the result wasn’t very pretty on either occasion.
“I had to bring the evening to a swift end – vomiting is seldom conducive to sparkling dinner conversation”
The first time was at a dinner party. I had prepared a rather elaborate starter involving mussels and cream. Within a couple of hours, I had to bring the evening to a swift end – vomiting is seldom conducive to sparkling dinner conversation.
A kilo of mussels at Belgo, a Belgian restaurant on Chalk Farm Road in north London, a few years later, proved even more disastrous. I was ill for days.
That’s not to say I’m not sympathetic to the plight of mussel growers, however.
Last winter’s heavy rain encouraged the bacterium vibrio splendidus to grow and spread, experts say. This has stripped the bouchots – the wooden posts wrapped in rope, where the mussels are grown – of the adult shellfish.
The result has cost mussel growers an estimated €20 million in lost income. They must feel almost as sick as I did.