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Characterization of lobster habitat and fishery’s spatial use in relation to shellfish aquaculture leases in Malpeque Bay, PEI



Shellfish aquaculture is an important economic activity for coastal communities in Atlantic Canada. The Blue Mussel industry emerged on the east coast during the 1970s and expanded rapidly in PEI during the 1990s. Today, Blue Mussels are the nation's leading cultured shellfish species by weight and value. In 2013, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) identified the need to develop a detailed spatial plan to accommodate a possible increase in leases for mussel aquaculture in Malpeque Bay, PEI. In addition to considering the scale of shellfish aquaculture that can be sustainably cultured in Malpeque Bay, there also remain questions related to lobster-cultured mussel interactions. In making decisions or proposing potential increases in the number of leases in Malpeque Bay, aquaculture managers have to consider complex coastal zone management issues, including the potential for habitat overlap between lobsters and aquaculture mussel leases.

This project addressed management questions related to lobster-cultured mussel interactions by investigating the potential overlaps between the then-current and proposed mussel aquaculture sites with lobster rearing grounds and fishing activities in Malpeque Bay. The study also evaluated the potential scenarios for shellfish aquaculture expansion to minimize effects on the productivity of commercial, recreational, or Aboriginal fishery species, such as lobster and rock crab, which are managed under the Fisheries Act. The outcomes of this study informs departmental and provincial decision-makers in their marine spatial planning processes and contributes to the sustainable aquaculture industry.


Results from this study showed that most of the proposed expansion areas for aquaculture were considered poor habitat for lobster, based on catch per unit effort and seabed characteristics. These areas served mostly as a transitory zone for lobsters. However, the southern portion of the west block is considered prime lobster ground serving as residence habitat for all benthic life stages and size groups of lobster. This study provided relevant information to the current marine spatial planning process in addressing some concerns from the lobster fishing industry. It provides objective observations and measurements, which facilitate effective and transparent consultations.


Ouellette, M., Comeau, M., LeBlanc, A., and Comeau, B. 2016. Characterization of the American lobster (Homarus americanus) habitat and fishery to inform marine spatial planning in Malpeque Bay, PEI. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Res. Doc. 2016/025. v + 39 p.

DFO. 2016. Review of potential impacts of hydrated lime treatments associated with proposed expansion of mussel production in Malpeque Bay, PEI. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Sci. Advis. Rep. 2016/014.

Program Name

Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR)


2015 - 2017

Principal Investigator(s)

Marc Ouellette
Aquatic Science Biologist, Gulf Fisheries Centre, Science Branch
343 Université Avenue, Moncton, New Brunswick

Team Member(s)

Michel Comeau

Denis Gagnon

Angeline LeBlanc

Bruno Comeau

Deryck Mills

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