One Ocean Scuba Joins the Anacostia Watershed Society’s Mussel May Event

First Employee   May 26, 2023

On May 6, 2023, the team at One Ocean Scuba joined the Anacostia Watershed Society's (AWS) Mussel May event at Buzzard Point in Washington, DC. We were thrilled to be invited to participate in this important initiative, which aims to restore the mussel population in the Anacostia River.

We were pleased to find seven of the eight species in the area. We mapped out an 18m x 18m square area for the event and collected the mussels by scuba diving along the bottom. These mussels live freely on the bottom of the silt, unlike other mussel species, which cling to rocks. After we collected the mussels, we sorted the species and counted them. We measured each mussel with calipers and recorded the data for the program’s database. We were surprised by how large the mussels were. Most of them averaged over 110mm! Jorge Bogantes Montero, AWS’s Natural Resources Specialist, explained that some of these larger mussels could be between 20 - 30 years old.

After we collected the mussels, we counted and measured their sizes.

Jorge also taught event attendees how to identify the different species of local mussels, tell male from female, and several other fascinating facts about mussels. He set up a demonstration of how well mussels filter the water to make it clearer for everyone. In his demo, Jorge took river water and added mussels to it. The mussels had filtered through the water in a little over an hour, making it clear. It was impressive to see how impactful they are to our water.

The tank on the left is water before mussels filter it. The tank on the right is about an hour after the mussels have cleaned the water.

But the most rewarding part of the day was returning the mussels to the river. We knew that by doing so, we were helping to ensure the success of the mussel restoration program. Mussels are critical to the health of our rivers and streams because they filter water to make it cleaner for other aquatic plants and wildlife to flourish. Empty shells also provide habitats for small animals like crayfish and other shellfish. Mussels serve as bioindicators, which are living things that indicate the health of an ecosystem. If the water is too polluted or toxic, mussels won’t thrive.

Jorge points out identifying traits for each mussel species.

We were honored to be a part of this effort and look forward to an ongoing partnership with the Anacostia Watershed Society. As scuba divers, we have a unique opportunity to observe the underwater world up close and contribute to conserving our natural resources. We hope participating in the Mussel May event will inspire others to join us in this critical work.

At One Ocean Scuba, we are committed to promoting sustainable scuba diving practices and supporting local conservation efforts. We are proud to be one of the few PADI Eco Centers in the world, and the only one in the Washington, DC, area. We believe that through education, awareness, and action, we can help preserve our oceans and waterways for generations.

If you’re a scuba diver and want to help us in a future mussel event, sign up for our mailing list (at the bottom of the page) for more information. If you want to learn how to dive to become more involved in aquatic conservation efforts, check out our Open Water Scuba class page for more details. We also have conservation specialty classes where you can learn more about being protectors of the underwater world, including Coral Reef Conservation, Shark Conservation, AWARE Specialist, and Underwater Naturalist.

Photo credits: Liz Parker