Matt Moretti, the co-owner with his dad, Gary, of Bangs Island Mussels says it’s the cool water temperature and high nutrient availability in Maine’s Casco Bay that make his hand-raised mussels so plump, sweet, and tender. And when it comes to the top quality of Bangs Island Mussels, restaurants and markets that serve them—such as Portland’s Hugo’s and chefs’ go-to seafood wholesaler Browne Trading Company—agree.
The Morettis bought Bangs Island four years ago from founders Toleff Olsen and Paul Dobbins, whose operation was believed to be the first commercial rope-grown mussel business on the East Coast, and whose reputation was established with chefs around the country. It’s a natural fit for Matt, who spent a lot of time as a kid lobstering with his dad and who studied marine biology, and Gary, who is a nurse anesthetist who also happens to be a member of the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center’s Mussel Working Group.
Together, father and son put an emphasis on sustainable practices and increasing production, from collecting the mussel seed and setting the ropes to using energy-efficient vessels for harvesting (which they do all year round). This April, Bangs Island had its first harvest of sugar kelp, which it now grows along with the mussels.
Matt keeps his eyes on the future, not only of his mussels business but also of a new generation of aquaculturists. As he told a reporter from Working Waterfront, “We want to focus on what grows naturally, and determine what we can do to foster that growth in an aquaculture setting. I want to see kids not lose that option.”