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COI Funded Project: Assessing the Potential of Shellfish Aquaculture as a Means of Mitigate the Effects of Excess Nutrients in Coastal Waters

Project Funded: 2003
Keywords: Nutrient Loading, Shellfish, Aquaculture, Water Quality, Coastal Zone Management, Modeling

Proposed Research

Because they filter particulates and nutrients from the water, shellfish play a natural role in maintaining coastal water quality. Due to growing coastal population pressures, many coastal water bodies today suffer from excess nutrients that flow into the ocean with surface runoff and groundwater. These nutrients can lead to algal blooms and ultimately to a reduction in oxygen levels, which has adverse consequences for fish stocks. Nutrient inputs present a formidable challenge to efforts to maintain coastal water quality. Reducing these inputs by managing land use practices (septic systems, fertilizer use, etc.) is often politically difficult and expensive. In some locations, it may be more efficient to manage nutrient levels by removing them from the water through shellfish aquaculture. While this concept is generally understood, little work has focused on the economic value and optimal scale and configuration of shellfish farming for this purpose. We propose to develop and apply a model of the contribution of shellfish aquaculture to nutrient management in a coastal water body. Our work will provide an important tool for resource managers trying to reduce the adverse effects of nitrogen enrichment in coastal waters, and illustrate the possible use of financial incentives to shellfishers to achieve optimal levels of nutrient removal.

Originally published: January 25, 2003