AEI 10:557-567 (2018)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/aei00290

Intensive oyster aquaculture can reduce disease impacts on sympatric wild oysters

Tal Ben-Horin1,2,*, Colleen A. Burge3, David Bushek4, Maya L. Groner5,6, Dina A. Proestou2, Lauren I. Huey7, Gorka Bidegain8, Ryan B. Carnegie7

1Department of Fisheries, Animal and Veterinary Sciences, College of the Environment and Life Sciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881, USA
2National Cold Water Marine Aquaculture Center, US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Kingston, RI 02881, USA
3Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD 21202, USA
4Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory, Rutgers University, Port Norris, NJ 08349, USA
5Prince William Sound Science Center, Cordova, AK 99574, USA
6US Geological Survey Western Fisheries Research Center, Seattle, WA 98105, USA
7Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary, PO Box 1346, Gloucester Point, VA 23062, USA
8Department of Applied Mathematics, University of the Basque Country, Bilbao, 48013 Bizkaia, Spain
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Risks associated with disease spread from fish and shellfish farming have plagued the growth and public perception of aquaculture worldwide. However, by processing nutrients and organic material from the water column, the culture of many suspension-feeding bivalves has been proposed as a novel solution toward mitigating problems facing coastal water quality, including the removal of disease-causing parasites. Here we developed and simulated an epidemiological model describing sympatric oyster Crassostrea virginica populations in aquaculture and the wild impacted by the protozoan parasite Perkinsus marinus. Our model captured the indirect interaction between wild and cultured populations that occurs through sharing water-borne P. marinus transmission stages, and we hypothesized that oyster aquaculture can enhance wild oyster populations through reduced parasitism as long as cultured oysters are harvested prior to spreading disease. We found that the density of oysters in aquaculture, which is commonly thought to lead to the spread of disease through farms and out to nearby populations in the wild, has only indirect effects on P. marinus transmission through its interaction with the rate of aquaculture harvests. Sufficient aquaculture harvest, which varies with the susceptibility of farmed oysters to P. marinus infection and their lifespan once infected, reduces disease by diluting parasites in the environment. Our modeling results offer new insights toward the broader epidemiological implications of oyster aquaculture and effective disease management.


KEY WORDS: Aquaculture · Dermo disease · Disease management · Mathematical modeling · Oyster · Perkinsus marinus


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Cite this article as: Ben-Horin T, Burge CA, Bushek D, Groner ML and others (2018) Intensive oyster aquaculture can reduce disease impacts on sympatric wild oysters. Aquacult Environ Interact 10:557-567. https://doi.org/10.3354/aei00290

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