MEPS - Vol. 326 - Feature article

Maerl provides important habitat for juvenile invertebrates such as this crinoid, but it is killed by fish farm wastes, even in strongly tidal areas (inset). Photos: Jason Hall- Spencer

Hall-Spencer J, White N, Gillespie E, Gillham K, Foggo A

 

Impact of fish farms on maerl beds in strongly tidal areas

 

Offshore salmon farms are being moved into areas with strong currents, to reduce impacts on benthic habitats. The first study of the effect of fish farms on strongly tidal maerl beds (coralline gravels of high conservation importance), conducted by Hall-Spencer and co-workers, reveals that strong currents do not prevent major habitat degradation, such as reductions in biodiversity and biogenic habitat, coupled with a build-up of organic waste. Changes in management policy are therefore required to prevent detrimental effects on seabed ecology in strongly tidal areas, and 'fallowing' (whereby sites are left unstocked to allow benthic recovery) is inadvisable where slow-growing biogenic habitats are concerned.

 

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