Extreme heat ravages Greece's mussel harvest

This year's mussels harvest for Greek fisherman Stefanos Sougioultzis may be the worst he has had in the last 25 years.

After a summer of scorching heat and warming waters, he says it was "as if they boiled in their own environment".

"We don't have much hope. When people were saying 'what a nice warm sea we have', we were living through a nightmare, and are still living through it."

Local authorities say about 50% of this year's production was destroyed as the country faced its worst heatwave in decades.

About 90% of the baby mussel seed that would grow into next year's production also died.

Temperatures rose above 113°F in July.

In high temperature, mussels suffer heat stress, according to an expert who specializes in the impact of global warming on marine life.

One scientist identified a thick white mass covering clusters grown over the last 18 months as a kind of tube worm - a marine worm that clings onto the mussels in high temperatures and gradually kills them.

Konstantinos Vervitis, president of the local shellfishing association Poseidon:

"It is the first time I witness such a phenomenon. We don't even know how to handle it. There has never been this kind of damage in the Thermaic Gulf. Any damage we had in the past was manageable. This year it looks like climate change is here. The climate crisis is here, and you can see the result yourselves."

One of the world's main producers of the shellfish, Greece harvested over 25,000 tons of farmed mussels in 2020, according to official data.

But it suffered a hit as the global health crisis hurt tourism and demand from its main markets Italy and Spain, a regional governor told Reuters.

Restaurants across Greece felt the pinch.\\

Some even took mussels off the menu in August because of short supply.

Eleftherios Stouraitis, who owns a restaurant his grandfather opened in 1947, says no one would ever expect a shortage in mussels here and it proves that climate change is quote "knocking on our door."

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