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Gulf of Maine Times

Vol. 2, No. 4

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Gulf of Maine Times

Winter 1998 - Volume 2, Number 4

Putting a little mussel into Gulf of Maine marine monitoring efforts

By Suzy Fried

Image: Steve Jones, Gulfwatch project manager scoops blue mussels from a mussel bed at Dover Point, New Hampshire. Since the Gulfwatch mussel monitoring program began in 1991, blue mussels at 58 US and Canadian sites throughout the Gulf have been tested for toxic metals and organic contaminants.Gulf of Maine - Each fall, small bands of people crunch over cobbles and mussel shells along the Gulf's coast to pull handfuls of blue mussels from their beds. Later they remove the mussels from their shells and bottle the meats. But rather than being stirred into a spicy marinara sauce, these mussels are sent to laboratories to be analyzed for trace metals and toxic organic contaminants. The results are entered into a database available to those looking for information about the Gulf's water quality.

All of this activity is overseen by Gulfwatch, the marine environmental monitoring program conducted by a committee of Canadian and US government and university scientists established by the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment (GOMC). The Council launched Gulfwatch in 1991 to collect and monitor information on the status of water quality throughout the Gulf, which has been affected by decades of development and industrialization.