2008a). An analogous progression in molluscan mariculture management approaches appears to be developing (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2004). Critical questions regarding impacts of bivalve mariculture on the natural ecosystem need to be addressed in order to preserve natural populations of fish and wildlife and to sustain ecosystem services of the ocean. In brief, molluscan mariculture can be included within comprehensive, spatially explicit, ecosystem-based management (EBM) of ocean and estuarine systems. Despite broad consensus for development of EBM of the oceans (Pew Oceans Commission, 2003; U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, 2004) and seminal conceptual characterizations of the principles to be included in EBM (e.g., Grumbine, 1994; Christensen et al., 2006), practical implementation of EBM, especially for the oceans, has been slow and difficult (Arkema et al., 2006).
A recent workshop report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2008b) includes contributions from many experts to answer the question of how an EBM scheme for aquaculture could be developed to preserve and sustain natural ecosystem integrity. This committee used the concepts in this workshop report to make additional progress in identifying the issues involved in achieving sustainable mariculture of suspension-feeding bivalves. This committee’s report was written to provide a blueprint for development of EBM for molluscan mariculture. As such, it was prepared in response to the committee’s statement of task to “develop recommendations for BMPs for shellfish [i.e., bivalve molluscan] mariculture to maintain ecosystem integrity.” Several specific questions were included in the complete task to the committee (Appendix A), the answers to which required inclusion of the following contributions. The committee conducted a review to characterize the various types of bivalve mariculture operations and the processes through which they have potential to affect the structure and function of the natural ecosystem. The uncertainties associated with these potential ecosystem impacts are identified, along with suggestions on research needs that could help reduce uncertainty and lead toward development and implementation of spatially explicit ecosystem-based mariculture planning that could enhance benefits and minimize negative impacts. Such an approach required consideration of the ways in which molluscan mariculture and wild-stock fisheries are related. Because cultured molluscs often include nonnative species, this report explicitly addresses the risks and the BMPs and performance standards associated with nonnative bivalve culture. The discussion of BMPs and standards, and the subsequent findings and recommendations, are intended for regulators, resource managers, and the mariculture industry. In addition, this report provides a framework for socioeconomic assessment of bivalve mariculture, thereby acknowledging that humans are an integral part of the ecosystem and that food