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California crowds mess with mussels

Updated: Apr 18

By Vira Patil and Gilina Voon Apr. 3, 2024

Mingyue Xiao Art

Along the California shoreline, visitors can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Greyhound Rock Beach, Monterey Bay and much more. In recent years, a new tourist attraction has emerged: hunting for mussels. However, this can prove to be dangerous for aquatic ecosystems as it destabilizes the local food web.

As one of the most common invertebrates found on California’s coast, mussels are important for the coastal environment because they form a mini-ecosystem for other sea creatures that live in mussel beds. Additionally, many important endangered California animals feed off mussels, such as sea otters and sea stars, so overharvesting harms the ecosystem. According to the Half Moon Bay Review, these visitors, many of whom have no prior experience with harvesting seafood, gather on the coasts of Half Moon Bay to harvest mussels for recreational purposes.

“To ensure ecosystem stability, regulations should be implemented such as permitting only certain methods of mussel harvesting and designating specific areas for harvest while closing off others. Rotating these designated harvesting areas would allow for consistent repopulation, ensuring a healthy mussel population,” Freshman Camille Jubert said.

Mingyue Xiao Art

Currently, visitors can only take 10 pounds of California sea mussels and bay mussels in combination, are required to have a fishing license and can only gather them by hand—no crowbars, trowels or other tools are allowed. These regulations help maintain the mussel population; if it decreases too rapidly it will leave other species that depend on the mussels as a food source at risk of starvation.

However, these regulations are still being broken by visitors. One precaution put in place to help stop people from bypassing regulations includes a ‘mussel quarantine,’ which prohibits public mussel harvesting from May 1 through Oct. 31. This is done to keep the mussel population at a natural level and to prevent people from getting sick from eating the mussels as they are toxic during this portion of the year. If someone is caught violating the mussel harvesting law by taking more than 10 pounds of mussels, they will have to pay a $200 fine. California Department of Fish and Wildlife wardens have also tried to monitor how many mussels each person brings back, but they are unable to ensure harvesting in the designated areas.

The consequences of breaking these regulations are very steep. According to TheWorldCounts, a company that works to bring awareness to problems faced by the planet, every organism plays a vital role in an ecosystem and altering this would risk ecological balance by increasing greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in increased global warming, water shortage and extinction rates.

“Some who are overharvesting the mussels are selfish and do not care about the environmental impacts of their actions, while others may be unaware,” Junior Christopher Wu said.

Because California’s coastline spans a vast distance and the mussel population varies per area, it is challenging to create laws that are both enforceable and take into account the variable factors of mussels in the region. Therefore, there are currently no enforceable laws and punishments in place, so it is up to the integrity of the people committing such actions to maintain ethical harvesting practices. It is imperative to acknowledge that every part of the planet works harmoniously with the other, and even altering a small part of this balance can cause devastating consequences.


About the Contributors

Gilina Voon

staff writer

Gilina Voon is a senior at Leland High School and is a writer and photographer for The Charger Account. During her free time, she enjoys traveling, hanging out with friends, and running.

Vira Patil staff writer

Vira Patil is a junior at Leland high school, and this is her first year as a staff writer on The Charger Account. During her free time, she enjoys to binge TV shows, spend time with her family, and play the piano.

Mingyue Xiao


Mingyue Xiao is a freshman at Leland High School and is an artist for The Charger Account. She does dance, pottery and loves to read.

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