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Study on interactions between finfish aquaculture and lobster catches

 Researchers find lobster catches may be affected by Port Mouton fish farm

Port Mouton Bay        October 03, 2014

Researchers find lobster catches may be affected by Port Mouton fish farm

Brittany W. Verge

PORT MOUTON - The Friends of Port Mouton Bay have published evidence of the impact open net finfish farms have on lobster catches for the first time ever.

Ron Loucks, Ruth Smith, and Brian Fisher authored the scientific paper, Interactions Fin Fish Aquaculture and Lobster Catches in a Sheltered Bay, which examines the effect the Port Mouton Bay fish farm has on lobster catches

The report appears in the Marine Pollution Bulletin, a science journal with Elsevier.

“We think we’re the first to survey lobster catches in a bay where there is a fish farm,” says Loucks, an oceanographer and member of Friends of Port Mouton Bay.
The group, with the help of local fishermen, surveyed for seven years and found that lobster catches go down while the fish farm is active. The farm was unoccupied for three years and their research found that the lobster catches went up significantly during that time.  Once the fish farm was restocked, the catches went down again.

The survey was conducted from 2007 to 2013 and over that time researchers took readings both when the farm was in use and when it was on hiatus for two years. The fish farm was restocked in 2013 and the group did more surveying after the restocking.

“Before, people have worked with opinions, but this time they’ve got evidence and it’s the first time,” says Loucks.
Loucks says that the argument around keeping the fish farm in its current spot was that the waste from the farm only affected directly below the farm site.

“We measured a large part of the bay and we’re finding that the catch rates were low in (Port Mouton Bay),” says Loucks.

Their analysis showed the displacement of lobsters over a 20-square kilometre area of the bay during aquaculture operations and partial recovery when the fish farm was fallow.

Their findings were compared with catches in a larger lobster fishing area: Area 33.

Fishermen had reported the phenomenon before, but that evidence was considered anecdotal; now, the group has more solid evidence. Loucks' hypothesis is that lobsters have such a sensitive sense of smell that they can detect pollutants from the farm a long way away.

Loucks says he hopes their findings may answer questions posed in an Independent Review Panel for Aquaculture.

“They identify the interaction between fish farms and lobsters as a prime question and we think we’re providing them with the first answer,” says Loucks.
The article can be found online here


South Coast Today  October 3, 2014

Fish farms may affect lobster catches, says Port Mouton Bay study

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