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Research Document - 2015/001

Carrying Capacity for Mussel Aquaculture in Malpeque Bay, Prince Edward Island

By R. Filgueira, T. Guyondet, C. Bacher, L.A. Comeau


Mussel aquaculture is a significant industry in Prince Edward Island (Canada), and a moratorium on further leasing there was established in 1999 - 2000. Recently, a Marine Spatial Planning process was initiated in order to review the moratorium and explore the potential expansion of mussel culture in Malpeque Bay. In this study, we have focused on the effects of a projected expansion scenario (590 ha) on current mussel lease (770 ha) productivity and availability of suspended food resources. The goal was to provide the most robust scientific assessment possible using available datasets. Towards that aim, three different modelling approaches have been carried out:

  1. a connectivity analysis among the different culture areas of the bay;
  2. a scenario analysis of organic seston dynamics based on a simplified biogeochemical model; and,
  3. a scenario analysis of phytoplankton dynamics based on a nutrient-phytoplankton-seston-bivalve ecosystem model.

In addition, sensitivity tests were carried out to identify the parameters and processes for which further research is needed to reduce model uncertainty. The main outcomes of these modelling exercises suggest:

  1. a potential increase of mussel production in the bay;
  2. a net reduction of chlorophyll a of 17.7% at the bay-scale compared to a hypothetical scenario without aquaculture; and,
  3. a maximum reduction of 8% (±2%) in mussel growth at the local scale due in part to direct connectivity among leases but also to bay-scale effects driven by the overall increase in bivalve biomass within the bay.

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