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Sci Total Environ 2020 Nov 20;744:140866. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.140866.
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The date mussel Lithophaga lithophaga: Biology, ecology and the multiple impacts of its illegal fishery.

Colletti A , Savinelli B , Di Muzio G , Rizzo L , Tamburello L , Fraschetti S , Musco L , Danovaro R .

The date mussel Lithophaga lithophaga is an edible endolithic bivalve, protected by the EU Habitats Directive and other international agreements, living inside carbonate rocks. Its illegal harvesting is carried by breaking the rocks where the bivalve grows. The impact has cascade consequences as it causes permanent changes in the substrate characteristics, the removal of benthic species, a shift from highly complex to structurally simplified habitats. As a result, the rich biodiversity of rocky reefs turns into a biological desert, named "barren". Along with the over exploitation of fish, this practice leads to the increase of sea urchin density and grazing pressure on habitats, hampering the resilience of the associated biodiversity and functions. This paper summarizes the information on date mussel biology, ecology, ecotoxicology, fishery and the legal framework regulating its protection. Evidence indicates that illegal harvesting is still operated and widespread along the Mediterranean and has huge costs in terms of loss of natural capital and ecosystem services, and in terms of active ecological restoration. Two case study areas (the Sorrento and Salento peninsulas) were selected to assess the economic costs of this practice. Tangible economic costs in terms of ecosystems services' loss are huge (from ca. 35,000 to more than 400,000 euros/year in 6.6 km of Sorrento and ca. 1.8 million euros/year along the 69 km of Salento). These costs are, on average, ca. 30 times lower than those of ecosystem restoration. Data mining from websites indicates that date mussels are presently commercialized in hundreds of restaurants in Greece, Balkan countries, Spain and Italy, favoured also by the lack of appropriate consumer information. This practice should be controlled and contrasted at local scale, enforced by national legislations, and implemented by transnational initiatives. Social campaigns are needed to increase public awareness of the serious consequences of date-mussel fishery and consumption.

PubMed ID: 32674023
Article link: Sci Total Environ