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Aquaculture Environment Interactions

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AEI 16:145-162 (2024)  -  DOI:

Quantification of finfish assemblages associated with mussel and seaweed farms in southwest UK provides evidence of potential benefits to fisheries

Sophie Corrigan1,2,3,*, Dan A. Smale3, Charles R. Tyler1,2, A. Ross Brown1,2

1Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Geoffrey Pope Building, University of Exeter, Stocker Road, Exeter, Devon EX4 4QD, UK
2Sustainable Aquaculture Futures, University of Exeter, Exeter, Devon EX4 4QD, UK
3Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Low trophic aquaculture, including shellfish and seaweed farming, offers a potentially sustainable food source and may provide additional environmental benefits, including the creation of new feeding, breeding and nursery areas for fish of commercial and ecological importance. However, quantitative assessments of fish assemblages associated with aquaculture sites are lacking. We used pelagic baited remote underwater videos (BRUVs) and hook and line catches to survey summer fish assemblages at 2 integrated blue mussel Mytilus edulis and kelp (predominantly Saccharina latissima) farms in southwest UK. We recorded at least 11 finfish species across the surveys, including several of commercial importance, with farmed mussels and/or kelps supporting significantly higher levels of abundance and richness than reference areas outside farm infrastructure. Farmed kelp provided temporary habitat due to seasonal harvesting schedules, whereas farmed mussels provided greater habitat stability due to overlapping interannual growth cycles. Stomach content analysis of fish caught at the farms revealed that some low trophic level species had high proportions of amphipods in their stomachs, which also dominated epibiont assemblages at the farms. Higher trophic level fish stomachs contained several lower trophic level fish species, suggesting that farms provide new foraging grounds and support secondary and tertiary production. Although not identified to species level, juvenile fish were abundant at both farms, suggesting potential provisioning of nursery or breeding grounds; however, this needs further verification. Overall, this study provides evidence that shellfish and seaweed aquaculture can support and enhance populations of commercially and ecologically important fish species through habitat provisioning.

KEY WORDS: Restorative aquaculture · Shellfish farming · Kelp farming · BRUV · Biodiversity · Habitat · IMTA

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Cite this article as: Corrigan S, Smale DA, Tyler CR, Brown AR (2024) Quantification of finfish assemblages associated with mussel and seaweed farms in southwest UK provides evidence of potential benefits to fisheries. Aquacult Environ Interact 16:145-162.

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