Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Aquaculture Environment Interactions





First Page



This paper reviews the impacts of shellfish and finfish aquaculture on eelgrass
Zostera marina, the most widely distributed seagrass species in the northern hemisphere. Shellfish aquaculture can have positive, neutral, and negative effects on eelgrass. Positive interactions can be generated by the filtering activity of cultured bivalves, which may improve water quality and reduce epiphyte loads, and shellfish biodeposits may provide more nutrients to eelgrass and other vegetation. However, negative responses are more commonly reported and can be caused
by shading and sedimentation. These negative effects tend to occur directly under and immediately surrounding shellfish farms and rapidly diminish with increasing distance. In contrast to shellfish aquaculture, only one field study has investigated the effects of finfish aquaculture on eelgrass in a temperate setting, and the results were inconclusive. However, many studies have investigated the effects of Mediterranean finfish farms on 2 other species of seagrass (Posidonia
oceanica and Cymodocea nodosa). These studies reported clear negative interactions, which have been linked to increased nutrient concentrations, sulphides, sedimentation, epiphyte loads, and grazing pressure. It is unknown if these studies are relevant for finfish aquaculture in temperate regions due to differences in environmental conditions, and because the studies focused on differ-
ent species of seagrass. Thus, further study in a temperate setting is warranted. We conclude by highlighting key research gaps that could help regulators establish unambiguous operational and siting guidelines that minimize the potential for negative interactions between aquaculture and eelgrass.


doi: 10.3354/aei00426


Seagrass · Shellfish · Finfish · Sedimentation · Shading · Nitrogen · Eutrophication

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.