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Sustainable development of offshore bivalve culture in Îles de la Madeleine: production capacity and interactions with commercial fisheries



The Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ) is looking to expand the bivalve (such as mussels) culture industry in Québec through the establishment of an offshore culture site (15 to 25 m depth) in Îles de la Madeleine. There are concerns, however, that the bivalve culture proposed may create carrying capacity (the maximum size of a population an environment can support) issues through potential overgrazing of planktonic populations which are the food source for bivalves and production of unacceptable levels of organic material deposition, such as bivalve feces, to the ocean. Additionally, the interactions between offshore culture sites and commercially important wild species are largely unknown, and remain a concern for local fishers and other industry stakeholders.

This project will determine the production carrying capacity (stocking density of bivalves at which harvests are maximized) and ecological carrying capacity (stocking density above which unacceptable ecological impacts become apparent) of offshore bivalve culture sites, and examine the influence of farmed bivalve sites on the abundance, condition (size and growth), and movement of three commercially important wild species: lobster, rock crab and winter flounder. The study will also evaluate the use of standard geochemical measures for monitoring the organic loading in the proposed offshore site. The research results will help inform both federal and provincial regulators on the ecological interactions between the shellfish industry and the environment and provide essential information for siting decisions. In addition, knowledge gained through this study will contribute to an integrated aquaculture management approach that minimizes environmental impacts and enhances the sustainability of this industry.

This project supports the environmental performance objective of the Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP), pertaining to the 2013-14 national ACRDP priority to evaluate the environmental impact of aquaculture through the increase of the knowledge and understanding of how aquaculture shellfish operations interact with the environment.

Program Name

Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP)


2013 - 2016


Atlantic: Gulf of St. Lawrence, St. Lawrence Estuary

Principal Investigator(s)

Chris McKindsey

Collaborative Partner(s)

Centre d’Innovation de l'Aquaculture et des pêches du Québec (MERINOV)

La société de développement de l’industrie maricole (SODIM)

Université de Québec à Rimouski

Université de Québec à Chicoutimi

Ressources Aquatiques Québec

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