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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 612:101-110 (2019)  -  DOI:

Increasing the harvest for mussels Mytilus edulis without harming oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus

J. D. Goss-Custard1,2,*, K. M. Bowgen1,3, R. A. Stillman1

1Department of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology, Bournemouth University, Talbot Campus, Poole, Dorset BH12 5BB, UK
2Present address: Havering, Church Road, Lympstone, Devon EX8 5JT, UK
3Present address: British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus arriving on their wintering grounds at the end of summer require 6 to 8 times more mussel Mytilus edulis biomass to be available on their feeding grounds than they will consume over the winter if the birds’ normal high survival rate until spring is to be maintained. In other words, their ecological requirement (ER) is considerably larger than their physiological requirement (PR). The ecological multiplier (EM) is the ratio of ER:PR and has been applied to a number of shellfisheries to calculate the total allowable catch (TAC). The high value of the EM, however, has meant that mussel fisheries have suffered from much-reduced harvests and thus economic difficulties. This paper proposes 2 methods by which the TAC could be increased with no predicted impact on the birds. In the ‘roll-over’ approach, the surplus biomass remaining at the end of a given month is harvested during the next. In the ‘delayed start’ approach, the EM is not set at the beginning of autumn but at the beginning of the winter, which is when birds begin to starve. The 2 approaches can be applied together and would enable many more mussels to be harvested than is currently allowed without reducing oystercatcher survival. In the test case presented here, the TAC over the winter could be increased from 5% to between 35 and 45% of the standing crop of mussels present in September when the birds arrive.

KEY WORDS: Mussel harvesting · Oystercatchers · Interference competition · Individual-based modelling · Total allowable catch

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Cite this article as: Goss-Custard JD, Bowgen KM, Stillman RA (2019) Increasing the harvest for mussels Mytilus edulis without harming oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 612:101-110.

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