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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13741

Conservation implications of demographic changes in the horse mussel Modiolus modiolus population of the inner Bay of Fundy

Jessica A. Sameoto*, Kelly Hall, Susan Gass, David Keith, Stephane Kirchhoff, Craig J. Brown

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Horse mussels (Modiolus modiolus) can occur in dense aggregations and form areas of ecological and biological significance. In the Bay of Fundy, Canada, aggregations of horse mussels are associated with flow parallel bedforms and this area is under consideration for designation as a sensitive benthic area which would provide protective measures. Basic demographic information is required to inform the development of effective conservation and management strategies and although general life-history characteristics of M. modiolus are known, detailed quantitative demographic information on this population is limited. The objective of this study was to characterize the population structure of horse mussels in the Bay of Fundy and assess change in key demographic characteristics since the last study in this area in 1997/1998. There have been significant changes in the population since 1998, the 2017 population contains larger, older, mature individuals, with significantly more females; 35% of the current population is over 20 years of age. Direct evidence that this population has been impacted by bottom contact fishing gear was also observed. Consistent with M. modiolus populations worldwide, this population demonstrates life history traits (e.g. slow growth rates, late age of maturity, long lifespan) that make it sensitive and susceptible to disturbance. Coupled with the knowledge that this population overlaps with significant fishing activity, this study supports the assumption that this population is vulnerable to bottom contact fishing and that recovery from adverse impacts would be slow and uncertain.