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Oct 12, 12:13 PM EDT

Maine had worst year for mussel harvest in 4 decades in '16



SCARBOROUGH, Maine (AP) -- Maine mussels are losing their muscle.

The state's blue mussels are beloved by seafood fans near and far, but the size of the annual harvest has dipped in recent years.

Harvesters collected less than 1.8 million pounds of mussel meat in 2016. That's the lowest since 1976, when the state's harvesters topped a million pounds for the first time.

In the 1980s and 1990s, harvesters topped 6 million pounds three times. They have routinely topped 3 million pounds until 10 years ago.

The state Department of Marine Resources says one of the factors influencing the decline is shellfish poison events that necessitate harvesting closures. There was one such event just last month.

Massachusetts surpassed Maine as the biggest blue mussel producing state in 2015. The mussels are also harvested in Washington state and elsewhere.

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