A box model of carrying capacity for suspended mussel aquaculture in Lagune de la Grande-Entrée, Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Québec

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Ecological Modelling,, Volume 200, Issue 1-2, p.193-206 (2007)


Aquaculture, Carrying-capacity, Ecosystem model, Magdalen Islands, Mussels


An object-oriented model of environment–mussel aquaculture interactions and mussel carrying-capacity within Lagune de la Grande-Entrée (GEL), Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Québec, was constructed to assist in development of sustainable mussel culture in this region. A multiple box ecosystem model for GEL tied to the output of a hydrodynamic model was constructed using Simile software, which has inherent ability to represent spatial elements and specify water exchange between modelled regions. Mussel growth and other field data were used for model validation. Plackett–Burman sensitivity analysis demonstrated that a variety of bioenergetic parameters of zooplankton and phytoplankton submodels were important in model outcomes. Model results demonstrated that mussel aquaculture can be further developed throughout the lagoon. At present culture densities, phytoplankton depletion is minimal, and there is little food limitation of mussel growth. Results indicated that increased stocking density of mussels in the existing farm will lead to decreased mass per individual mussel. Depending on the location of new farm emplacement within the lagoon, implementation of new aquaculture sites either reduced mussel growth in the existing farm due to depletion of phytoplankton, or exhibited minimum negative impact on the existing farm. With development throughout GEL, an excess of phytoplankton was observed during the year in all modelled regions, even at stocking densities as high as 20 mussels m−3. Although mussels cultured at this density do not substantially impact the ecosystem, their growth is controlled by the flux of phytoplankton food and abundance of zooplankton competitors. This model provides an effective tool to examine expansion of shellfish farming to new areas, balancing culture location and density.