The Black Gold Beneath the Platforms

The emergence of a new sustainable fishing practice in the Adriatic Sea

Aileen Roncoroni

Marine Scientist



Linda Albonetti

Science Communicator

Marina di Ravenna, Italy

In the 1970s, off the coast of Ravenna in the North Adriatic Sea (Italy), a large portion of the sea was closed to fishing due to the construction of several offshore platforms for gas extraction. This stretch of sea has become a protected area called the “Area fuori Ravenna.” When local fishermen were commissioned to maintain these platforms by cleaning and monitoring them, they realized that the submerged part was beginning to be colonized by numerous marine organisms, including mussels, grouped in shoals. This discovery led to the activation of a sustainable chain: fishermen learned how to take advantage of the new marine habitat through the manual harvesting of mussels.

In contrast to traditional methods of mussel production, which consists of breeding and growing mussels in plastic nets placed in the middle of the sea, mussels in Marina di Ravenna grow wild in shoals on submerged substrates such as artificial reefs and the pylons of offshore structures off the coast of Emilia-Romagna.

Harvesting takes place mainly in the summer and exclusively by hand by local, highly specialized underwater fishermen and after the mussels have finished their reproductive cycle. For all these reasons, the fished mussel is considered an environmentally sustainable product. To tell this story and raise awareness of this product, a brand identity campaign has been created for hand-picked mussels through the registration of a trademark: La Cozza Selvaggia.

La Cozza Selvaggia is a circular economy. It is an example of how anthropogenic and productive activities, even those linked to mining exploitation, have generated protected habitats that allow the repopulation of fish resources and generate significant benefits to the sea. However, due to the depletion of the gas fields, the disused platforms are in danger of being removed as required by law. This means that the habitat beneath the platforms, which over the years has become a breeding and nursery area for a vast range of marine life, is in danger of being destroyed and fishermen could lose their jobs.

To save this unique habitat, a collaboration between fishermen and marine biologists came to life. Together, they aim to solve the problem by telling the story of this very special product and the importance of these underwater habitats found beneath the platforms. CESTHA, Experimental Center for Habitat Conservation, is conducting several scientific studies to monitor mussel populations and their associated organisms.

Worldrise, a non-profit organization that encourages marine conservation, contributes to the protection of these special habitats through the Meroir project by promoting a local and sustainable fishing method and valorizing the story behind the final product. Similarly to wine, where “terroir” identifies all aspects related to the territory from which it came, including the tradition and history specific to that area, the seafood can also tell us the story of the waters from which it came, the fishermen and the community that benefits from it. Hence the idea of Meroir, a term to enhance the fish resource, defining it not only as a commercial and food product, but more importantly as a story of interdependence between people and natural resources.

The joint activities of the two organizations, CESTHA and Worldrise, as well as the sincere collaboration with fishermen, aim to support and give visibility to this fishery, which has proven to be environmentally sustainable because it does not affect the stock and biodiversity; as well as economically and socially because it is a fishing activity that creates jobs and identifies a territory. These characteristics make this activity unique and suitable to be a replicable example for other disused offshore structures worldwide.


  • Mussels fishermen: Sauro Alleati, Gigi and Bobo
  • All CESTHA staff: Sara Segati, Simone D’Acunto, Silvia Brandi, Elia Bueloni and Luciano Giatti
  • All Worldrise staff, in particular Silvia Olivieri and Claudia Paccosi