A model for sustainable management of shellfish polyculture in coastal bays.
A multi-species model for shellfish polyculture in coastal embayments is presented, and an application of the model to a test site (Sanggou Bay, Northern China) used for large-scale longline cultivation of the Chinese scallop Chlamys farreri, the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas and the kelp Laminaria japonica is described. The model integrates a bay-scale ecological simulation with individual-based modelling of scallops and oysters, and upscales the individual processes for the target species (scallops and oysters) by means of a multi-cohort population dynamics model. Human interaction with the target cohorts over a number of years is explicitly simulated. The model has been used to estimate the exploitation carrying capacity for scallops and oysters in the system, the harvest potential for different seeding and harvesting scenarios, and the impacts on the ecosystem of different polyculture management strategies. Although an increase in seeding to 2× and 15× standard seeding for scallops and oysters respectively optimizes the yield of both, thus corresponding to the exploitation carrying capacity, the ratio of harvest/seed is lowered, which may make the fishery less attractive from an economic point of view. Progressive increases in seeding lead to a collapse of the fishery: this occurs at >15× standard seeding for scallops, and at >30× for oysters. In parallel, there are profound modifications at the ecosystem level, which were studied by means of a mass balance carried out on the model. Under standard conditions, there is a net export of primary production from the bay to the Yellow Sea, but at 15-20× increase in seeding, the bay becomes a net phytoplankton importer, due to phytoplankton clearance by cultivated shellfish. The model simulates a period of 6 years in about 2 min, and was shown to be a useful tool for polyculture management over multiannual periods; a development of the socioeconomic component will allow feedbacks between economic consequences of different cultivation scenarios and ecosystem responses to be explicitly considered. The application of this type of model may be of use in promoting a more holistic approach to shellfish aquaculture management.