Māori Mussel Memory

Māori Mussel Memory

A shellfish restoration project in New Zealand weaves together traditional Māori knowledge and marine ecology to foster mussel growth. – by Asher Mullard

Sitting on the seaweed-covered beach of Okahu Bay in New Zealand, a 15-minute drive from Auckland’s bustling port, Richelle Kahui-McConnell stops midsentence and points out over the waves. “Oh my god, look at those fish jumping. Look, look, look,” she says. “When I started working to restore this bay 11 years ago, you’d never see that.”

Once a saltwater pantry filled with green-lipped mussels and flounder, Okahu Bay has suffered the same fate as urban beaches around the world. Fishing trawlers and port dredgers decimated the once-robust ecosystem. A crude sewage system dumped raw human waste into the water for decades, further disrupting marine life and causing typhoid and cholera. Boats still leach toxins and bring invasive foreign species into the waters.

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Photo by Richelle Kahui-McConnell