Tracking the spillover benefit to fisheries from offshore aquaculture

The Spillover project, funded by the Dorset & East Devon Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG) and European Maritime & Fisheries Fund (EMFF). aims to improve understanding of the movements of fish and crustaceans with high commercial and recreational importance in the Lyme Bay region, especially across the Dorset & East Devon FLAG area of interest.

Within this broad goal, Spillover aims to determine if economically valuable fisheries species (brown crab, lobster, European bass) that have been observed to be accumulating at the offshore mussel farm spill over into adjacent fishing grounds used by the Dorset & East Devon FLAG inshore fishing communities.

The UK’s largest offshore mussel farm, which has been in operation since 2014, has been studied for its ecological effects since its inception. Spillover will broaden our understanding of how the ecosystem changes brought about by this mussel farm might feed into nearby fishing grounds. This will be achieved with the use of acoustic telemetry and traditional tagging to track individuals from several species in the local area.

Understanding the ecological effects of offshore aquaculture is critical to inform marine spatial planning and evaluate the environmental effects of offshore aquaculture in the region.

The Spillover project is closely linked with the Responses of predators to Protection and Enhancement (ROPE) project, which uses acoustic telemetry to gain a greater understanding of the movements of brown crab, lobster and European bass within the mussel farm itself, to establish whether their behaviour differs to those outside of the mussel farm.