Intensive oyster aquaculture can reduce disease impacts on sympatric wild oysters

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Citation of Original Publication

Tal Ben-Horin, Colleen A. Burge, David Bushek, Maya L. Groner, Dina A. Proestou, Lauren I. Huey, Gorka Bidegain, Ryan B. Carnegie, Intensive oyster aquaculture can reduce disease impacts on sympatric wild oysters, Vol. 10: 557–567, 2018,


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Risks associated with disease spread from fish and shellfish farming have plagued the growth and public perception of aquaculture worldwide. However, by processing nutrients and organic material from the water column, the culture of many suspension-feeding bivalves has been proposed as a novel solution toward mitigating problems facing coastal water quality, including the removal of disease-causing parasites. Here we developed and simulated an epidemiological model describing sympatric oyster Crassostrea virginica populations in aqua culture and the wild impacted by the protozoan parasite Perkinsus marinus. Our model captured the indirect interaction between wild and cultured populations that occurs through sharing water-borne P. marinus transmission stages, and we hypothesized that oyster aquaculture can enhance wild oyster populations through reduced parasitism as long as cultured oysters are harvested prior to spreading disease. We found that the density of oysters in aquaculture, which is commonly thought to lead to the spread of disease through farms and out to nearby populations in the wild, has only indirect effects on P. marinus transmission through its interaction with the rate of aquaculture harvests. Sufficient aquaculture harvest, which varies with the susceptibility of farmed oysters to P. marinus infection and their lifespan once infected, reduces disease by diluting parasites in the environment. Our modeling results offer new insights toward the broader epidemiological implications of oyster aquaculture and effective disease management.