Submit manuscript...
International Journal of
eISSN: 2576-4454


Opinion Volume 6 Issue 1

Mussel watch monitoring program: a practical monitoring tool of potentially toxic metals pollution from 1970 to beyond 2070

Chee Kong Yap, Wan Mohd Syazwan

Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia

Correspondence: Chee Kong Yap, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 UPM Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia

Received: January 18, 2022 | Published: January 26, 2022

Citation: Yap CK, Syazwan WM. Mussel watch monitoring program: a practical monitoring tool of potentially toxic metals pollution from 1970 to beyond 2070. Int J Hydro. 2022;6(1):20-21. DOI: 10.15406/ijh.2022.06.00298

Download PDF


The Mussel Watch monitoring program (MWMP) has been extensively implemented to monitor the health of worldwide coastal ecosystems since first introduced during the mid-1970s.1 This initiative promotes the use of sentinel, filter-feeding mussels as a reliable and proportionate biomonitor for the changes of organic and inorganic pollutants occurring in the seawater, food or sediment.2,3

As demonstrated by the majority of monitoring studies undertaken by the MWMP, analysis of the total soft tissues in mussels has proven useful in assessing the level of bioavailable contaminants including the potentially toxic metals (PTMs).4–6 In some cases, however, the total soft tissues of mussels could hardly reflect the bioavailabilities of PTMs in the ambient seawater, thus making an accurate determination of contamination levels very difficult.6,7 Nevertheless, another biomonitoring study using various parts of mussel tissues has yielded a higher accuracy that better reflects the pollution levels in coastal waters.8 Such a study has indeed provided some level of certainty of better and more extensive applications of mussels in environmental monitoring in the future, although more studies are urgently needed.6

In Malaysia, the MWMP related studies are relatively limited until Yap et al.9 reported the levels of four PTMs in Perna viridis from the coastal waters of Peninsular Malaysia. MWMP research in Malaysia have been progressive ever since, as exemplified by the growing numbers of reviews and updates pertaining to the MWMP in recent years.2

A more recent online literature search (as of 1 December 2021) using the keyword ‘Mussel Watch’ on the Scopus database has yielded a total of 304 publications recorded from more than 52 countries during 1975 – 2021. The increasing pattern of worldwide publications related to ‘Mussel Watch’ throughout the years is also evident (Figure 1, as plotted using the KaleidaGraph Version 3.08 Sygnergy Software, Eden Prairie, MN, USA). Subsequent analysis based on the exponential regression model as the fit type in KaleidaGraph (Figure 1) has further projected an exponential increase in the numbers of papers to be published beyond the 2070s. In fact, such an increasing trend appears to be in tandem with the predicted increasing size of the world’s population (Figure 2).

Figure 1 Predictive model of increasing numbers of papers to be published beyond the 2070s, based on exponential regression model as the fit type in KaleidaGraph. Data in black dots were cited from Scopus database from 1975 until 2021 on the number of global literature with the keyword of ‘Mussel Watch’ (as searched on 1 December 2021; N= 304).

Figure 2 Predictive model of increasing world population size from 1970 to beyond the 2070s, based on exponential regression model as the fit type in KaleidaGraph. Data in black dots were cited from Our World in Data.12

It is therefore beyond any reasonable doubt that with all the reported studies using mussels as biomonitors of PTMs pollution, the effectiveness of using MWMP is almost certain and with high practicality. This note also clearly indicates that MWMP serves great potential as a feasible and practical environmental monitoring tool that may help to promote the marine ecosystem’s health and coastal livelihood in the future.


The knowledge gaps in biomonitoring studies thus need to be urgently filled by working towards overcoming the recurring challenges in the development of more accurate methodologies for PTMs data interpretation. Further works to increase the precision of the biomonitoring studies using bivalves as biomonitors, whether in coastal or freshwater ecosystems also should be conducted. Relatedly, the inclusion of human health risk assessment of PTMs in commercial mussels would certainly make the research findings of high public interest and especially important to the authorities and policy makers.10,11



Conflicts of interest

The author declares there is no conflict of interest.


  1. Goldberg ED. The Mussel Watch—A First Step in Global Marine Monitoring. Mar Pollut Bull. 1975;6:111.
  2. Yap CK, Ismail A, Tan SG. Biomonitoring Studies of the West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia Using the Green-Lipped Mussel Perna viridis: Present Status and What Next? Pertanika J Trop Agric Sci. 2004;27:151–161
  3. Yap CK. Mussel Watch in Malaysia Past, Present and Future. UPM Press: Serdang, Malaysia, 2012; ISBN 978-976-344-264-5.
  4. Topping G. Heavy Metals in Shellfish from Scottish Waters. Aquaculture. 1972;1:379–384.
  5. Phillips DJH. The Common Mussel Mytilus edulis as an Indicator of Pollution by Zinc, Cadmium, Lead and Copper. I. Effects of Environmental Variables on Uptake of Metals. Mar Biol. 1976;38:59–69.
  6. Yap CK Sharifinia M, Cheng WH, et al. A Commentary on the Use of Bivalve Mollusks in Monitoring Metal Pollution Levels. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18:3386.
  7. Yap CK, Ismail A, Cheng WH, et al. Crystalline style and tissue redistribution in Perna viridis as indicators of Cu and Pb bioavailabilities and contamination in coastal waters. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety. 2006;63:413–423.
  8. Yap CK. Selected Organs of Marine Mussels as Accurate Biomonitors of Metal Bioavailability and Contamination in the Coastal Waters: Challenges. EC Pharmacol Toxicol. 2018;6:528–534.
  9. Yap CK, Ismail A, Tan SG. Background Concentrations of Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn in the Green-Lipped Mussel Perna viridis (Linnaeus) from Peninsular Malaysia. Mar Pollut Bull. 2003;46:1044–1048.
  10. Yap CK, Cheng WH, Karami A, et al. Health Risk Assessments of Heavy Metal Exposure via Consumption of Marine Mussels Collected from Anthropogenic Sites. Sci Total Environ. 2016;553:285–296.
  11. Yap CK, Bakhtiari AR, Cheng WH. Impacts of Marine Pollution and Toxicology: A Mussel Watch Experience in Peninsular Malaysia. J Aquat Pollut Toxicol. 2017;1:1–4.
  12. Roser M, Ritchie H, Ortiz-Ospina E. Our World in Data World population growth. 2019.
  13. Yap CK. From Mussel Watch Monitoring to Health Risk Assessment: A Public Health Concern. GSL J Public Health Epidemiol. 2017;1:103.
Creative Commons Attribution License

©2022 Yap, et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and build upon your work non-commercially.