The role of biofouling development in the loss of seed mussels in aquaculture

The efficient seeding of juvenile mussels is critical to the sustainability and profitability of mussel aquaculture. However, seeding mussels is highly inefficient, with many juveniles being lost in the following few months. One possible cause of these losses could be the development of biofouling assemblages. Therefore, the relationships between biofouling accumulation and losses of juveniles were assessed. Losses of juvenile mussels were initially high (42.9–49.1% over approximately one to two weeks), with lower rates of loss over the following four to five months. Biofouling development followed a successional pattern beginning with colonisation by amphipods, subsequent establishment of macroalgae, and the formation of an assemblage dominated by mussels and sessile invertebrates. However, biofouling development did not play a major role in the loss of juveniles. Rather, large-scale losses of mussels occurred shortly after seeding when biofouling was scant, suggesting alternative causes of loss were in operation.