MUSSELS could be farmed on the River Stour, if a five-year trial gets the go-ahead.

Wash Mussels Limited has applied for an order from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to allow them to fish blue mussels.

The company wants to establish if mussels can be sustainably fished in the river.

The plan would see five plots set up along the estuary between Bradfield and Parkeston.

Each plot would range from ten to 34 hectares.

In its application, Wash Mussels said: “Annual monitoring will establish whether the fishery is environmentally benign and sustainable, while also economically- viable.”

The company believes there has been no shellfish production in the past ten years, but oyster fishing has taken place sporadically.

The application added: “Careful consideration was given to the choice of sites, in order to prevent adverse impacts on nature conservation interests and human activities.’’ No other species will be targeted during the trial.

Crabs will be caught on the river bed as part of pest control and will be treated as a commercial product.

Any oysters encountered will be returned to a native habitat.

The seed mussel will be sourced from local, transient beds abundant along the coast of East Anglia, at Cromer and Great Yarmouth.

The estimated production of blue mussels is 10,000 tonnes over the five years.

But Matthew Patten, Tendring councillor for Bradfield and Wrabness, raised concerns.

He said: “This is an industrial fishery on a grand scale.

“I would be concerned about any activity that negatively impacts on the natural beauty of the river, its ecology and enjoyment of it as a leisure facility.

“I would also expect to see any commercial development of the river bring a serious commitment to local jobs.”