Tuesday 28. April 2015

Marine animal entanglements in mussel aquaculture gear

Wednesday, April 29, at 4pm, Madeline Olivia Young will present and defend her master's thesis, titled: Marine animal entanglements in mussel aquaculture gear: Documented cases from mussel farming regions of the world including first-hand accounts from Iceland. Her thesis supervisors are Dr. Halldór P. Halldórsson, Director of University of Iceland's Research Centre in Suðurnes peninsula and Scott Lindell, Director of the Scientific Aquaculture Program at the Marine Biology Laboratory, USA. The reader is Dr. Áslaug Ásgeirsdóttir, Accociate Professor and Chair of Politics Department at Bates College in USA and a visiting instructor at the University Centre of the Westfjords.

Everyone is welcome to attend the open presentation, starting at 4pm.

Mussel aquaculture utilizes various ropes in the water column that may pose an entanglement risk to cetaceans and sea turtles. In contrast to fishing gear, however, there are far fewer documented entanglement cases in mussel aquaculture gear. With that being said, there has been little data collected on this issue to date. Due to the growing demand for aquaculture and potential expansion into offshore areas, interactions with cetaceans and sea turtles are likely to continue and even increase into the future. In Iceland, the mussel aquaculture industry is currently small and largely experimental, but there is potential for expansion. The development of a successful management plan is dependent on understanding what type and part of the gear poses the greatest entanglement risk, as well as the location and timing of events in relation to cetacean feeding and migration patterns. The objective of this thesis is to lay the foundation for future studies regarding cetacean and sea turtle entanglements in mussel aquaculture gear. Documented entanglement cases were collected from mussel farming regions of the world via media outlets, academic articles, secondary sources, and informal interviews. Primary data collection was then undertaken in Iceland using online surveys and semi-structured interviews with mussel operators. In total, seven entanglement reports were collected, including four baleen whales, one harbour porpoise, and two leatherback turtles. A majority of cases involved mussel spat collecting ropes, which suggests this part of the gear may pose the greatest entanglement risk. Two entanglement reports were from Iceland, where there is likely proximity between cetacean distributions and mussel farming sites. Summer spat collection also coincides with the highest densities of cetaceans in Icelandic waters. Management suggestions for Iceland may include the implementation of a reporting system for entanglements in aquaculture gear and studies looking into areas where spat collection can occur with low likelihood of encountering cetaceans. 

Keywords: Cetaceans, entanglement, Iceland, mussel aquaculture, mussel farming, sea turtles.

Madeline Young
Madeline Young