Quality Assurance Project Plan: Mussel Watch Pilot Expansion Project


Published: October 18, 2012

Pages: 80

Author(s): Jennifer A. Lanksbury, James E. West, and Laurie Niewolny


The following Mussel Watch Pilot Expansion Project is a broad-scale assessment of toxic contaminants in the nearshore biota of the greater Puget Sound. This expands spatial coverage of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Mussel Watch program in Puget Sound with a one-season synoptic survey. It combines results and experience from NOAA’s long-term monitoring program, as well as previous DFW feasibility projects, with a long-term goal of developing a regional plan for musselmonitoring in Puget Sound. This Quality Assurance Project Plan describes the objectives and operating procedures for this study.

NOAA’s Mussel Watch (MW) program monitors contaminant conditions in Washington State mussels (Mytilus spp.) at approximately 17 locations across the Puget Sound. Although the MW data are useful to broadly characterize ambient contaminant conditions, expanded spatial distribution and additional mussel monitoring sites are needed to address regional questions regarding the fate, transport, and effects of chemical contaminants in the Puget Sound’s nearshore urbanized waters. This study will use Pacific blue mussels (Mytilus trossulus) as a representative species to evaluate the geographic extent and magnitude of contamination in nearshore biota. Additionally we will compare contamination patterns of mussels with land use patterns of adjacent shorelines and watersheds, compare contaminant uptake between mussels and eelgrass taken in a companion study, and provide recommendations for a long-term, nearshore status and trends monitoring program.

Mussels from a common source will be transplanted in predator-exclusion cages to over 110 sites along the shoreline, including areas affected by an array of upland land-use types. Areas to be covered include the southern and central Puget Sound, Whidbey and Bellingham Basins, San Juan Archipelago, Strait of Georgia, and Admiralty Inlet. Mussel cages will be placed within the middle intertidal zone during the winter months (November â€" January). Upon retrieval the condition index of mussels from each site will be determined and a composite of the mussel soft tissue will be prepared for chemical analysis. Each composite will be analyzed for a range of organic contaminants and metals.

Upon completion of the study, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)-Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP) will produce a final report and an oral presentation of the study findings. The PSEMP final report will be posted to the internet and all data will be submitted for uploading into Ecology’s EIM database.