The Rise Of Aquaculture In Saldanha Bay
We celebrate the ever-expanding acquaculture industry, which is producing huge hauls of sustainably farmed mussels, in Saldanha Bay.
Musseling out the competition, the town of Saldanha Bay on the Cape West Coast is rapidly overtaking the production of oysters and mussels in South Africa.
While often only associated with estuarine areas like Knysna, the deep, cold waters of Saldanha Bay provide a sheltered environment where the briny bivalves can be cultivated en masse.
After starting out over three decades ago, the business of aquaculture in the bay has recently gained in popularity – a detail put down to the fact that mussels and oysters make up the most eco-friendly commercial crop on the planet.
Predominantly made up of the Mediterranean mussel – a tasty but harmless invader to our shores – aquaculture has provided the town with a new current of socio-economic development.
Naturally purifying the seawater around them, bivalves are filter feeders and so clean their environment by removing excess nutrients like nitrogen as well as dust from the nearby steelworks.
Towering over the bay, the steelworks have always dominated the Saldanha horizon – a juxtaposition against the mussel farms themselves. One cannot forget that the area is a place of industry.
No romanticized imagery of whitewashed fishing cottages lingers here, but rather a booming business in sustainable seafood that is as profitable as it is economically and environmentally conscious.
A flotilla of rafts suspends ropes and baskets holding mussels and oysters deep into the nutrient-rich ocean, with special flatbed boats harvesting and seeding on a regular basis.
Stringent daily testing ensures that no product is harvested or sold during red tide – a naturally occurring bloom of algae that removes vital oxygen from the water and can lead to food poisoning.
In fact, the mussels and oysters produced in Saldanha Bay are so carefully monitored that there has yet to be any complaints of illness – although the same can’t be said if one overdoes it on the Méthode Cap Classique during an oyster feast.
Pioneers of harnessing the bay’s potential, Blue Ocean Mussels was one of the first companies to start cultivating molluscs as a crop.
A proudly South African venture, Blue Ocean cultivates a mixture of the indigenous black mussel and the Mediterreanean mussel – retailing their product to the greater Cape Town area via their online shop.
Little can come close to the pleasure of sampling a taste of Saldanha Bay in each briny bite.
As CEO JC Smit says, Blue Ocean Mussels is farming with a product that is synonymous with the West Coast and a reflection of its beauty.
And of course, having the ability to provide the rest of South Africa with a piece of the area in the form of a mussel is very satisfactory.