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Title: Direct and indirect ecological interactions between aquaculture activities and marine fish communities in Scotland
Author: Ghanawi, Joly Karim
ISNI:       0000 0004 7226 9690
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2018
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Presence of coastal aquaculture activities in marine landscapes is growing. However, there is insufficient knowledge on the subsequent ecological interactions between these activities and marine fish communities. The overall aim of this thesis was to evaluate the direct and indirect ecological effects of aquaculture activities on marine fish communities in Scotland. A combination of empirical and modelling approaches was employed to collect evidence of how aquaculture activities affect marine fish communities at the individual, population and ecosystem levels around coastal sea cages. The two fish farms evaluated in this research provided the wild fish sampled near the sea cages with a habitat rich in food resources which is reflected in an overall better biological condition. Results of the stomach content analysis indicated that mackerel (Scomber scombrus), whiting (Merlangius merlangus) and saithe (Pollachius virens) sampled near sea cages consumed wasted feed which was also reflected in their modified FA profiles. The overall effects of the two fish farms were more pronounced in young whiting and saithe than in mixed aged mackerel sampled near the sea cages. The phase space modelling approach indicated that the overall potential for fish farms to act at the extremes as either population sources (a habitat that is rich in resources and leads to an overall improved fitness) or ecological traps (a habitat that appears to be rich in resources but is not and leads to an overall poor fitness) are higher for juvenile whiting than for mackerel. Based on the empirical evidence and literature the two fish farms are more likely to be a population source for wild fishes. Using an ecosystem modelling approach indicated that fish farming impacts the food web in a sea loch via nutrient loading. Mussel farming relies on the natural food resources and has the potential to affect the food web in a sea loch via competing with zooplankton for resources which can affect higher trophic levels. The presence of both activities can balance the overall impact in a sea loch as compared to the impact induced if each of these activities were present on their own. Both activities have the potential do induce direct and indirect effects on the wild fish and the entire sea loch system. The results of this PhD identified several gaps in data and thus could be used to improve future sampling designs. It is important to evaluate the cumulative effect of the presence of aquaculture activities in terms of nutrient loading and physical structure in the environment. Using a combination of empirical and modelling approaches is recommended to gain further insight into the ecological impacts of aquaculture activities on wild fish communities. Results of this PhD study could lead to more informed decisions in managing the coastal aquaculture activities. Establishing coastal fish farms as aquatic sanctuaries can be of an advantage to increase fish production and conserve species that are endangered provided that no commercial and recreational fishing is allowed nearby. It would be useful to have long term monitoring of the fish stocks around the cages and if there is any production at the regional level. Additionally, information on behaviour, migration patterns should be collected to understand the impacts of aquaculture activities on fish stocks. From an aquaculture perspective, ecologically engineered fish farms in addition to careful site selection in new aquaculture developments may improve nutrient loading into the ecosystem.
Supervisor: McAdam, Bruce J. ; Telfer, Trevor Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: cage fish farming ; environmental impact ; waste consumption ; wild fish ; trophic marker ; ecosystem model ; population model ; Leslie matrix model ; Fatty acid ; Scomber scombrus ; Merlangius merlangus ; Pollachius virens ; ecological trap ; Aquatic ecology--Scotland ; Fish culture--Scotland