Mussel reef to protect coast off De Panne


Biostabilising methods, such as the construction of a mussel reef, appear to be suitable to combat erosion and strengthen our coastal defences against severe storms.

For centuries, coastal dykes have been built to protect the hinterland from severe weather. But their maintenance costs a tonne of money, they are inflexible and have a negative impact on the environment. Natural buffers are a much more sustainable and cheaper alternative than traditional storm surge barriers and sand embankments, as the six-year test project of the Coastbusters, a partnership between DEME, Jan De Nul, Sioen, eCoast and ILVO, off the coast of the seaside resort of De Panne has shown.  

About two kilometres behind the low-tide line, Coastbusters researchers have successfully constructed a mussel reef. The mussels grow on ropes and when they are heavy enough, they fall to the seabed. They form a kind of blanket that makes the sand beneath them a lot less mobile. Now, by contrast, some 500,000 m³ of accumulated sand must be replaced every year with machines. You do have to give nature time and space to develop. To be clear: the intention is not to harvest those mussels for consumption. 

Such mussel reefs protect us better against rising water levels. They are also excellent feeding grounds for all kinds of marine animals. In addition, they make the sea cleaner. The technology is ready to roll out the solution if given the green light by the government.