Background Mussels provide many ecosystem services as habitat, food, water filtration and recreational fishing. However, mussels are vulnerable to anthropogenic pressures such as harvesting or trampling, among others. In this frame, it would be paramount to engage society in marine conservation and improving its awareness about environmental policies. The first step lies in properly assessing what is the perception and concerns of society about marine ecosystems. Our study aims to fill this gap by examining public perception of services provided by Mytilus galloprovincialis, its state of conservation and the factors (including anthropogenic activities) shaping mussel beds. Methods This study is based on a face-to-face survey consisting of seven open-ended and seven multiple-choice questions of 404 people conducted in 2019 at different shores in the North Portuguese coast. The influence of respondent profile in terms of age, education, gender and place of residence was also assessed. Results Most of the participants in our survey (74%) considered that mussels contributed to human well-being and life quality; however, only 31% considered that mussels provide us with many benefits. Regarding the perceived state of mussel services, most of the respondents asserted that mussel services (purification of seawater, habitat, food for other species) worsened in the last 10 years. In contrast, the service as human food was perceived as in an identical state and scientific and traditional knowledge was the only service perceived in a better state. Concerning the state of mussel beds, most of the participants perceived it as good (45%) but a similar percentage (41%) asserted ignoring it. When considering the influence of different factors on mussel beds, only environmental management was considered as having a positive impact by a higher percentage of respondents. The majority of the participants considered that factors included in the questionnaire contributed to worsen mussel beds, ranging between 51% for coastal erosion and 90% for pollution. Education level and age were the main socio-economic factors driving public awareness about the importance of mussel services, its state of conservation and the factors shaping mussel beds. Discussion Results showed that perception about the importance of mussels for human well-being and the quantity of delivered benefits increased with the education level. Moreover, older people perceived human food as the most important service offered by mussels. Therefore, our results suggest that mussels are mainly known as food resource; however, most of the people ignore their relevant ecological role and the many other benefits that mussels provide. Thus, it is necessary to actively engage society about importance of mussel beds. As M. galloprovincialis is a relevant economic resource, our data could improve the diffusion of knowledge among citizens, stakeholders and scientists, contributing to its sustainability.