What is the overall effect of shellfish aquaculture on eelgrass, an ecologically significant species?
Eelgrass (Zostera marina) was designated an ecologically significant species because it provides numerous ecological functions, including habitat for fish and their prey. The interactions between oyster aquaculture and eelgrass beds will be analyzed in this project, which aims to assess the net effects of oyster farming on CRA fisheries and eelgrass habitat. This project will synthesize the results from past PARR research projects (i.e., PARR-2011-G-19, PARR-2012-G-01, and PARR-2014-G-10) and the scientific literature to produce a review of the scale and scope of interactions between shellfish aquaculture and eelgrass. At the small scale, bare patches of eelgrass occurred under oyster farms and research revealed that shading from oyster aquaculture structures were the primary stressor. As research expanded to assess bay-scale effects, the hypothesis that oyster farming can increase eelgrass productivity due to increased water clarity was explored. Impacts on eelgrass beds may reduce some CRA fisheries productivity with habitat loss; however, the ability of aquaculture structures to create new fish habitat may offset this loss of CRA fisheries. This project will review the influence of oyster aquaculture structures on eelgrass, the creation of fish habitat by aquaculture structures, and the overall consequences on fish habitat change.
Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR)
Research biologist, Gulf Fisheries Centre, Moncton, NB
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