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Mussel Farming in the Baltic Sea: Estonia

Interview with Urmas Pau about Baltic Blue Growth on Vormsi Island, Estonia

As mussel farmers are an integral part of the Baltic Blue Growth project, it is important to get to know their motives for managing a mussel farm. The Baltic Blue Growth mussel farm on Vormsi Island in Estonia is the easternmost farm within the project. It is cultivating mussels in the same area as red algae. Urmas Pau who works at the farm shares his experience of both.

How did you get into mussel farming?

We got into mussel farming by chance. Together with the expert Mads Van Deurs, we developed different technologies for seaweed farming, our main income. Mats noticed a lot of mussels on our seabed, and suggested to put out some test lines for mussels as well.

According to your experiences, what are the main challenges for mussel farmers?

For us, the main question is how to create a market for small mussels, or put simply: what to do with them after harvest. Currently, we are attempting to develop, or use an already existing technology to produce fish meal. We are in close cooperation with fish farmers and together we plan to build up a farming system incorporating mussels, seaweed and fish. The same equipment can be used and our mussel and seaweed production will compensate for the fish farm’s nutrient input.

What has been your positive experiences with mussel farming so far?

It’s difficult to point to any specific experiences, as mussel farming in itself is a positive experience. I like that we have the possibility to farm mussels in Baltic Sea, despite the low salinity. I also appreciate the positive environmental impact of mussel farming and the possibility to set up a whole system with fish farms, it is very logical and simple for us to do with mussels as well as with seaweed.

In your opinion, what is needed for the mussel farming sector in the BSR to grow?

What is definitely needed for mussel farming as well as the entire aquaculture sector much clearer policies, a lot less bureaucracy and officials coming together at one table to discuss their ideas on how to improve the situation. Today, the entire process with permissions and scientific evaluation takes a lot of time which scares away investors from the sector. 

Blue bioeconomy is very interesting and promising industry for investors, but nobody is interested in investing money as long as legislation is lacking, making the business so dependent on the will of officials.

What partner would you need to team up with to scale up your business?

Again, for us the main question remains the market for small mussels. Tomorrow I’m having a meeting with representatives from a big fish meal factory, maybe we can find a way to cooperate and perhaps also to use our small mussels.

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