The Offshore Mussel Farm Ecology project is investigating the impact that Europe’s biggest mussel farm is having on the surrounding ecosystem. The mussel farm based in Lyme Bay, southwest England, aims to produce 10,000 tonnes of the bivalves per year by 2020. While expansion to this scale is ongoing, the ecosystem within the mussel farm and its surroundings has been monitored continuously since the start.
The project has been funded since 2013 by Offshore Shellfish Ltd., and will evaluate the complex effects that the installation of an offshore mussel farm has on the surrounding environment. Preliminary results suggest that the rope installations and elevated biomass within the farm, as compared to the surrounding area, are attracting a wide range of species. Many of these species, such as brown crab and lobster, are of commercial value.
The latest research programme at the mussel farm builds on the long-term benthic and pelagic surveys which have been conducted at the site since 2013, by adding a focus on the effects of the farm on physical oceanography and plankton locally. This work will be conducted alongside the other monitoring work to assess effects at scales ranging from individual species to the whole ecosystem.