Excessive nutrient input into estuarine and coastal environments, also known as eutrophication, can lead to algal blooms, oxygen depletion, fish kills, and a general loss of key habitats. New research from NOAA supports using shellfish aquaculture for nutrient removal and eutrophicationreduction.
To include shellfish aquaculture as part of a comprehensive approach to nutrient management, scientistsmeasured the amount of nitrogen removed from the local environment by a shellfish farmby applyingthe Farm Aquaculture Resource Management (FARM) model, which estimatesthe impactof shellfish nutrient removalthrough both growth and harvest, as well asshellfish production. Applied to 14 locations across nine countries and four continents, considering seven species of shellfish, the model estimated an overall range of annualnitrogen removal from 105 to 1356 pounds per acre. These results compare favorably to reported nitrogen removal effectiveness of agricultural best management practices and stormwater control measures, indicatingshellfish aquaculture as an effectivecandidate for inclusion in nutrient trading programs. Determininga potential range of nitrogen removal rates by shellfish farms is valuable to coastal planners andregulatorslooking todevelopwatershed-scale nitrogen reduction plans. These results support theongoing global discussion among growers and regulators about the role of shellfish aquaculture in reducingeutrophication-related problems while also providing a source of sustainable seafood.
This research was conducted by scientists withNOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the New University of Lisbon.
The publication is available online here.