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Research Document - 2006/032

Modeling approaches to assess the potential effects of shellfish aquaculture on the marine environment

By Chamberlain, J., A.M. Weise, M. Dowd, and J. Grant


The purpose of this document is to provide advice on the application of mathematical models as tools for assessing the potential effects of shellfish farming operations on the marine environment. Models that provide predictions of the potential effects of aquaculture operations may be used in the planning phase of developments to assess appropriate farm locations and sizes; to provide guidance to all stakeholders on the potential effects of such developments; and incorporated within management decision frameworks to provide objective assessment of potential environmental risk of such developments.

The scale over which the effects of shellfish aquaculture operations may occur, ranging from very localized (within metres) to far-field (kilometers), means that different processes have to be taken into account within models, depending on the type of effect being simulated.

This paper presents three different approaches to modeling specific aspects of the effects of shellfish aquaculture. These range from predicting the near field benthic effects from increased flux of waste material, to effects on lower trophic level ecosystems and finally the use of simple index models of waste output to predict ecosystem level impacts.

We propose that modeling techniques and methodologies are available that simulate and predict shellfish aquaculture-environment interactions with reasonable predictive capability and could already be of use to Habitat Management. As further data become available and validation exercises are completed, predictive skill and confidence in model outputs will increase.

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