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Aquaculture Environment Interactions

    AEI prepress abstract   -  DOI:

    Oyster aquaculture does not impede spawning beach access for Atlantic horseshoe crabs Limulus polyphemus

    Daphne M. Munroe, Thomas M. Grothues, Niki E. Cleary, Joshua Daw, Samantha Estrada

    *Corresponding author:

    ABSTRACT: Farms for eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica, which are commonly located along shallow estuarine shores of the eastern USA, use a range of farm equipment and require regular access to care for and harvest oyster livestock. In some cases, these farms are located in areas used by Atlantic horseshoe crabs Limulus polyphemus as they come ashore during spring to spawn. The sandy shores of the Delaware Bay host the largest spawning aggregations of this species in the world. Limited studies have examined interactions between horseshoe crabs and intertidal oyster farms, and concern has been raised about horseshoe crab ability to traverse oyster farms to reach spawning habitat. This study examines potential farm interactions with horseshoe crabs in Delaware Bay during the 2018 and 2019 crab spawning season. Our studies included a range of experiments and surveys during high and low tide to observe crab abundance and behavior at rack-and-bag oyster farm and non-farm sites. In all cases, results indicated that crabs can successfully traverse rack-and-bag farms and reach spawning beaches. Crabs do not differentially use farm versus non-farm areas, and crab behavior is relatively unaltered by farm gear. These results provide important context for developing frameworks for managing ecological interactions among farms and wildlife species of concern.