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Aquaculture Environment Interactions

    AEI prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/aei00418

    Characterizing the habitat function of bivalve aquaculture using underwater video

    Bridget Ferriss*, Karl Veggerby, Molly Bogeberg, Letitia Conway-Cranos, Laura Hoberecht, Peter Kiffney, Kate Litle, Jodie Toft, Beth Sanderson

    *Corresponding author:

    ABSTRACT: Bivalve aquaculture is an expanding coastal industry with the potential to modify habitat of fish and crab species, affecting their refuge, movement, and feeding. The habitat function of shellfish aquaculture is not yet well understood, in part due to difficulties in data collection using traditional methods. Underwater video was used to observe fish and crab species’ affiliations with cultured Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas and Manila clam Venerupis philippinarum aquaculture sites in comparison to uncultured reference sediment and eelgrass habitats. Sites were monitored in 9 locations across 3 regions of Puget Sound, Washington, USA, in the summers of 2017 and 2018. Of the 3038 fish and crabs observed, 98% were represented by Embiotocidae (surfperch), crabs, three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus, Cottidae (sculpins), and Pleuronectiformes (flatfish). Overall, the affiliations of fish and crabs with bivalve aquaculture varied by species groups, culture type, and regional environmental and habitat conditions. These interactions varied on a scale of approximately 150 km, highlighting variation of aquaculture–ecological interactions at a scale not previously recorded in Puget Sound. Species composition varied between aquaculture and non-aquaculture habitats in 2 of the 3 regions studied. Species diversity and richness in aquaculture habitats varied regionally, relative to reference habitats. Pelagic species were more abundant in aquaculture and reference sites that had vertical structure, but abundances of demersal and benthic species on aquaculture habitat relative to reference sites varied regionally. The availability of habitats within intertidal regions, including varying types of aquaculture, could determine community structure for marine organisms such as fish and crab.