New insights into shellfish farming

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Researchers have identified how mussel larvae move, providing mussels and other shellfish farmers with important information on where and how to grow them.

The University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture used genetic testing of mussels at sample sites along the west coast of Scotland combined with mathematical models to figure out where mussels grow well, and it all depends on the current.

PhD researcher Ana Corrochano-Fraile said: “Mussel cultivation has been a bit of a black box. The larvae float in the water, we put the ropes in the sea and the larvae appear there. If the stock decreases, they don’t. we know why. If the quality goes down, we don’t know why.

“Our model shows us how the larvae move in currents, from south to north. We found that, in 30 days, a cloud of larvae can move from the Scottish border near Stranraer to Islay, for example. They then attach themselves to the substrate The next generation of larvae is carried by the current from Islay to the Outer Hebrides in 30 days, much farther, because the current is faster there.

“For example, we found that 90% of the mussels in Loch Roag on Lewis come from Barra. Knowing where the mussels come from and where they go tells us a lot about the best and worst locations for farms.”

Researchers worked with the Scottish Association of Marine Science, as well as mussel farms in several locations on the west coast, through the Fishmongers’ Company, Scottish Sea Farms Ltd and the Association of Scottish Seafood Growers. They found, for example, that Loch Eil farm grubs leave the lake, but no new grubs enter, so although Loch Eil has a self-sufficient population, it also contributes to populations in other locations, such as Loch Linnhe.

SM. Corrochano-Fraile supervisor, computational biologist Dr. MichaĆ«l Bekaert, said: ‘We were surprised at how quickly the larvae moved in a short amount of time, and also how fragile and vulnerable they are.

“Research shows that if we were to somehow block the current between Scotland and Northern Ireland, or slow it down, we would lose the larvae. Likewise, if we were to pollute the sea there, or somewhere like Loch Linnhe, where many fresh larvae are washing themselves, which would have a huge impact.

“We will have to better understand the effects of climate change, but if the current moves much faster, for example, the larvae could be swept away from the Outer Hebrides without stopping at all.”

40% of the UK’s mussels are produced in Scotland, half of which grow along the west coast and the rest around Shetlands. The breeding of mussels has a low impact on the environment, as they do not need food, they grow on ropes and, by their nature of bivalves, also clean the water that surrounds them.

“This means they are vulnerable to pollution,” explained Dr. bekaert. “They will absorb heavy metals, for example. If we give them waste to eat, they save it. But if these fast flowing waters are clean, the mussels are clean.

“It is possible to produce many mussels at very low cost, from an environmental and economic point of view. The most expensive part is their collection and processing.”

The increase in mussel production is part of the industrial organization Scotland Food and Drink’s ambition to double Scottish food production by 2030.

dr. Bekaert said: “This level of detailed oceanographic information is also relevant for other valuable bivalves such as scallops and oysters and, being on a scale of meters rather than kilometers, it is even useful for the salmon industry.”

The paper, “Biophysical Models Predictive of Bivalve Larvae Dispersion in Scotland”, is published in the journal Frontiers in marine sciences.

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More information:
Ana Corrochano-Fraile et al, Biophysical models predicting the dispersal of bivalve larvae in Scotland, Frontiers in marine sciences (2022). DOI: 10.3389 / fmars.2022.985748

Provided by the University of Stirling

Citation: Mussel movement: new information on shellfish farming (2022, 22 September) retrieved 22 September 2022 from

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