MAHAKI Maxwell and Tekanawa Smith prepare the latest batch of Whakatohea mussels for Opotiki to enjoy. Photo James Sandbrook OB4838-01

THIS season’s Whakatohea mussels have been the best yet, according to Ocean Seafoods owner Barry Howe.

With the first harvest in July giving some slim results, Mr Howe said the mussels had been consistently fat since September.

“They’ve just gotten better ever since,” he said.

Mr Howe attributes this to some experiments with mussel line density, leading to more spread out but higher quality mussels.

“We produce a great product out there,” he said.

Mr Howe said the consistency of the mussels was also a by-product of this, as storms had not impacted the mussels as much as usual.

“Normally when a storm goes through, the mussels lose condition,” he said.

“With the mussels being more spread out, they only lose a little condition.”

Having stocked and sold Whakatohea mussels since 2015, Mr Howe said the first harvest had excited many Opotiki residents.

“People had been hanging out for a taste of what was coming out of there,” he said.

He said sales this year were also an indication of high quality, with his store selling about 36 sacks of Whakatohea mussels per week.

“When we have Coromandel mussels in good condition, we sell eight to 10 sacks in a week,” he said.

Mr Howe said he hoped to continue stocking and selling the mussels for at least two more months.

With 40 years in the business of seafood and about 25 years of stocking and selling mussels, Mr Howe said Opotiki’s mussels were different.

“We’ve had mussels from Coromandel and Marlborough Sounds, but Opotiki’s mussels are unique.”