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Ecosystem Concepts for Sustainable Bivalve Mariculture 2 Best Management Practices and Performance Standards It is widely accepted that most human activities in the marine environment will have some effect on marine species and habitats. The scale of these impacts depends on the nature of the activity, its intensity, and the sensitivity of the receiving environment. The degree of change that is considered permissible depends on a number of factors, not the least of which is public perception. Empirical data demonstrating change or impact is the most obvious basis on which to justify management actions or inactions. Equally important is linking the change observed directly to the process under consideration (e.g., bivalve mariculture). Best management practices (BMPs) and other standards have been adopted as means of mitigating against unacceptable environmental interactions. The major categories of BMPs and standards include the following: BMPs (or design standards or specifications) for growers, mariculture regulators, and managers Regulatory standards governing bivalve mariculture Certification standards for bivalve products (e.g., organic, sustainable, fair trade, domestically or even locally grown) BMPs often are developed by the industry group (e.g., growers) to which they apply. Adoption of and adherence to these codes is usually voluntary. Regulatory standards usually are imposed by a public authority (i.e., federal, state, or local agencies responsible for permitting and oversight of mariculture); compliance is often required by law as a
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Ecosystem Concepts for Sustainable Bivalve Mariculture condition of the permit. Certification standards are developed by buyers, public agencies, nongovernmental organizations, or marketing groups as a means of providing consumers with information about a product with the goal of influencing growers through the leverage of consumer choice and market forces. Pursuit of certification is voluntary for growers. All these practices and standards may have multiple objectives including, for example, reducing the likelihood that mollusc farming will have unacceptable ecological effects. When designing and formulating a BMP or performance standard, the following are some of the major decisions to be made (Breyer, 1982): Targets of the regulation—What specific ecological goals are to be achieved or ecological harm(s) are to be guarded against? Scope of the regulation—Does the standard address specific forms of mollusc farming or the broad spectrum? Performance or design specification—Does the standard specify what level of effects are acceptable, or, alternatively, how to do the farming? Technology forcing—Should the standard set objectives not achievable with current practice and technology? A performance standard may set targets for a parameter (e.g., ambient phytoplankton concentrations should not be reduced by more than X% below baseline levels) that is a proxy or surrogate for the ultimate objective (e.g., maintenance of suitable conditions for health of native filter-feeder populations). The choice of the specific parameters targeted by the code or regulation has to take into account its relationship to the ultimate objectives and the cost of monitoring and enforcement. In settings where bivalve mariculture is carried out by a number of small, independent operators (none of whom individually approaches carrying capacity limits), it makes sense for the mariculture regulator(s) to focus on system-wide carrying capacity questions, taking into account the cumulative effects of all farming operations. BMPs or standards that target parameters related to ecological and social carrying capacity (see Chapter 5) can be focused on bivalve mariculture broadly and may not have to address each location, species, and culture technique separately. However, given that the ability to quantify and measure ecological carrying capacity remains limited (see Chapter 5), adopting this approach will require careful consideration of the risks, the acceptable level of ecological change, and the appropriate parameters to monitor. The choice between performance and design specifications embodies a fundamental tension between flexibility and enforceability (Helfand, 1991; Montero, 2002; Bruneau, 2004). Design standards are easier to
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Ecosystem Concepts for Sustainable Bivalve Mariculture enforce but limit the farmer’s flexibility in the choice of approach and innovation; adoption of such standards may restrict the development and application of technological advances. Performance specifications are more likely to promote innovation because they leave the choice of how to meet the objective to the individual grower (Downing and White, 1986; Malueg, 1989). Performance standards are likely to be more efficient (in economic terms) in the long run because they provide incentives for farmers to optimize their technology and processes, but they may be more expensive because they require more extensive ongoing monitoring and documentation of environmental and ecological parameters in order to document compliance (Breyer, 1982; Besanko, 1987). In the context of bivalve mariculture, it may be most productive in many settings for the public managers to focus on carrying capacity issues (in the broad sense) at an appropriate ecosystem scale and from a performance standard perspective but to cast rules and regulations for growers in concrete, design-standard terms, especially where individual growers’ production is small relative to local carrying capacity. ESTABLISHED PRACTICES AND STANDARDS FOR MOLLUSC FARMING BMPs dealing with environmental interactions seem to have been derived primarily from forestry and agricultural practices in response to concerns raised about soil erosion, nutrient loading, and waste outputs from feedlot operations. Likewise, BMPs for mariculture have generally been developed in order to minimize various potential interactions between the mariculture operation and environmental or ecological conditions, as well as interactions with the general public. Examples of the earliest versions of BMPs might be outreach brochures on husbandry techniques (e.g., Washington Sea Grant, 2002; Alaska Sea Grant, 2009; University of Maryland, 2009) to identify the optimal ways to culture bivalve molluscs. While many publications have focused primarily on methods to maximize production, they can be considered important precursors to current BMPs, in that they required a good understanding of local environmental or ecological conditions, as well as an understanding of the interaction of specific culture methods with environmental conditions (e.g., productivity, predation minimization, shelter). A variety of BMPs and standards have been developed by nongovernmental organizations (e.g., the World Wildlife Fund), regulatory authorities (state and federal), and producer organizations to address issues in mollusc farming (Table 2.1). BMPs for bivalve mariculture range from dealing with general principles to local issues. Broader BMPs are developed with a view to serving national or international audiences.
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Ecosystem Concepts for Sustainable Bivalve Mariculture TABLE 2.1 Examples of Best Management Practices and Performance Standards for the Farming of Bivalve Molluscs Produced by a Range of Organizations, Demonstrating the Range of Topics and the Variety of Subjects Covered Author Affiliation U.S. Agency for International Development Regulator, nongovernmental organization, and academia World Wildlife Fund Nongovernmental organization U.S. Department of Agriculture Regulator State of Virginia Advisory agency, regulator, and industry Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association Industry Seafish (UK) Regulator, industry, and advisory agency State of Massachusetts Industry, regulatory, and advisory agency Maryland Aquaculture Coordinating Council Industry, regulatory, and advisory agency Ireland Industry and advisory agency Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Regulator International Council for the Exploration of the Sea International convention Maine Aquaculture Association Industry National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Regulatory Creswell and McNevin (2008) Academia
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Ecosystem Concepts for Sustainable Bivalve Mariculture Scope Scale Reference Generic guidelines and environmental interactions International Boyd et al., 2008 Environmental interactions International World Wildlife Fund, 2008; 2009 Policy on organic certification and environmental interactions National Belle et al., 2008 Environmental interactions and permitting State Oesterling and Luckenbach, 2008 Policy and environmental interactions Regional Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association, 2001 Alien species interactions National Syvret et al., 2008 Environmental interactions, permitting, and husbandry State (local) Leavitt, 2004 Environmental interactions, permitting, and husbandry advice State Maryland Aquaculture Coordinating Council, 2007 Generic environmental interactions National Irish Seas Fisheries Board, 2003 Permitting and environmental interactions State Bronson, 2007 Alien species interactions International International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, 2005 Environmental interactions and permitting State Maine Aquaculture Association, 2006 Environmental interactions and policy National National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 1998; Shumway and Kraeuter, 2000 Generic guidelines, environmental interactions, and husbandry International Creswell and McNevin, 2008
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Ecosystem Concepts for Sustainable Bivalve Mariculture By their nature, these broader BMPs are usually non-technical and general in orientation, identifying a range of broad environmental goals or principles. As such, they are unlikely to address effectively the specific issues that present themselves to regulatory agencies and the producers, particularly when these are local in origin and context and have to be considered on a much smaller scale. Consequently, these are best seen as generic guidelines that highlight a range of general principles and present a suite of possible solutions to universal and common issues (i.e., the toolbox approach). Other BMPs deal with more regional issues, and yet others specifically consider the day-to-day operations at farms and their interactions. These locally oriented guidelines can provide important advice on pertinent laws and ordinances and focus on important local issues (e.g., environmental interactions, stakeholder interactions, community relationships). In summary, all of the BMPs serve some purpose, and while the origins of BMPs are varied, they are almost all driven by the ultimate goal of producing molluscs under the broader umbrella of sustainability. They can identify solutions that range from farm- or small-scale measures to broader societal solutions focusing upon competing uses and values. While the focus and goals of BMPs in the mariculture of bivalve molluscs are varied, there are some general characteristics that they share. Many of them are fluid and subject to constant review and adjustment to arrive at more sustainable, effective, and acceptable conditions. Further, it is important to note that BMPs are not a proxy for performance (Clay, 2008); just because they are adhered to does not mean that they necessarily meet goals for reducing impacts on the ecosystem. As previously indicated, many of the concerns presented by bivalve mariculture are local in origin, and although management plans or husbandry practices may be derived from empirical field measurements, the adoption of broad-scale, general BMPs may have little or no impact in terms of measureable environmental improvements. This is especially true given the variety of methods used to culture bivalve molluscs and the range of environmental conditions under which the culture operations are carried out. The implementation of a BMP or a code of practice is no guarantee of success (i.e., to maintain or improve environmental conditions) and informs little in the absence of meaningful monitoring information to assess its efficacy. At the same time, the implementation of some BMPs will increase costs associated with the culture of molluscs. This can affect the price competitiveness of molluscs grown under restrictive BMPs that are costly to implement relative to molluscs grown without BMPs, especially in markets accessible to international trade. Importantly, most existing BMP approaches are more of a design standard (“do things this way”) than a performance standard (“achieve the following environmental objective”). It is worth noting that neither type
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Ecosystem Concepts for Sustainable Bivalve Mariculture of standard is inherently more compatible with maintaining ecological integrity but that performance standards speak more directly to ecological integrity objectives. Because it is usually easier to verify a practice than to verify an effect, BMPs have the advantage of lower administrative burden for demonstrating compliance but have the drawback that there is no guarantee of environmental benefit. Clay (2008) suggests that BMPs in isolation are perhaps on the way out as management strategies with a move toward performance standards, which focus less attention upon how the objectives are achieved and more on the end result (e.g., acceptable level of environmental impacts as a condition for continuing the culture operation). Examples of performance standards for mollusc farming include minimum and maximum permissible levels of nutrients in the water, turbidity, or changes in abundance of local native species. (Other examples of such standards can be found in Schulze .) Nevertheless, the value of a BMP as a marketing tool is likely to remain. For example, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) utilizes an “environmental standard” to certify fisheries (Marine Stewardship Council, 2002) as sustainable by specifying a combination of management practices, performance goals, and general design standards. MSC certification and labeling serve to educate the public on the importance of sustainable seafood practices and purchasing and are seen as marketing tools by seafood producers. In addition, some BMPs have been proven to maintain efficiency and hence profitability, while reducing environmental impacts (e.g., the use of triploid oysters in order to mitigate against successful reproduction and spread in areas where the oyster is nonnative) (Nell, 2002; Syvret et al., 2008). However, it must be acknowledged that no one BMP would be sufficient to cover the spectrum of issues that are place specific or address the variety of bivalve mariculture practices and technologies. USEFUL CHARACTERISTICS OF BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES AND STANDARDS BMPs or performance standards are intended to limit the risk of undesirable ecological effects to an acceptable level. BMPs are often general and can be cast as design standards, which may or may not be enforceable by legal or regulatory means. BMPs alone can be useful in promoting sound practices and as marketing tools, but they are of limited use in the pursuit of specific ecological objectives. Performance standards are likely to be more efficient (in economic terms) in the long run because they provide incentives for mollusc farmers to optimize their technology and processes, but they may be more expensive to comply with and enforce because they require more extensive monitoring and documentation of environmental and ecological parameters in order to document
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Ecosystem Concepts for Sustainable Bivalve Mariculture compliance. Both performance standards and BMPs have an appropriate role in the context of bivalve mariculture. In many settings, the local or regional public managers are best positioned to consider the effects of mariculture at the relevant ecosystem level and can focus on carrying capacity issues at that scale from a performance standard perspective to ensure that ecological effects remain within acceptable limits. They can then translate these ecosystem-scale performance standards into concrete design-standard terms akin to BMPs for growers, especially where individual growers’ production is small relative to ecosystem carrying capacity. The central objective of avoiding undesirable ecological effects through standards and practices requires a detailed understanding of these effects, and much of this report deals with what is known about them and where the remaining uncertainties lie. A useful concept in considering the effects in aggregate is that of carrying capacity, a measure of the level of mollusc farming that a given area can sustain before certain limits on effects are breached. In many cases, it will be useful for those designing future practices and standards to think in terms of carrying capacity. As discussed in Chapter 5, carrying capacity concepts extend to social and economic as well as ecological considerations, and they require dealing with trade-offs, risk, and uncertainty. Managing for carrying capacity therefore requires a political process that is informed by science and that ensures the balanced representation of stakeholder views. A focus on carrying capacity strikes at the heart of the issue of ecosystem impacts and can clarify to regulators and the public the explicit trade-offs that are being made in regulatory decisions. Increasing transparency in environmental management has the benefit of enabling broader stakeholder and public participation and thereby insuring that the industry is not left to regulate itself because they alone possess the power of knowledge. Estimates of carrying capacity are likely to be uncertain, and carrying capacity is subject to change over time as ecosystem and socioeconomic circumstances change (see Chapter 5). BMPs and regulations that are linked to carrying capacity must take this into account, and that can be done by framing the standards and their application within a context of adaptive management (Holling, 1978; Williams et al., 2007). Adaptive management is a structured, iterative process of making resource management decisions (in this case, the decision to permit a certain level of change in environmental parameters related to carrying capacity or to permit a certain level of bivalve production) when there is uncertainty about the nature or extent of the ecosystem response. For example, a BMP might call for mariculture to be permitted initially so as to produce what is anticipated to be a modest harvest volume relative to carrying capacity and for the volume of permitted mariculture to be increased over time as
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Ecosystem Concepts for Sustainable Bivalve Mariculture uncertainty about ecological effects is reduced. This approach requires ecological monitoring programs to be designed to collect information that will systematically reduce uncertainty. FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Finding: Performance standards are generally more efficient than BMPs because they allow for innovation and track ecosystem responses. However, implementation of performance standards usually involves additional, and potentially costly, requirements for monitoring and enforcement. Many of the issues surrounding bivalve shellfish mariculture are location specific and may not be addressed effectively by broad national standards. Technically oriented BMPs have in some cases been shown to increase efficiency and hence profitability, while reducing environmental impacts. However, no single BMP or standard can address the many contingencies raised by different mariculture techniques, the species in culture, and the environmental conditions that are unique to various regions or sites. Recommendation: Performance standards that set parameters based on carrying capacity (size of population or biomass that the environment can support; see definition in Chapter 5) should be developed and implemented at the ecosystem level because they can be applied to bivalve mariculture more generally with adjustments for the specific conditions of each mariculture operation, species, and culture technique. Recommendation: Management of bivalve mariculture should employ performance standards to address carrying capacity concerns at the scale of the water basin but may find the use of BMPs to be more practical and efficient at the local scale, especially where the industry consists of large numbers of small growers. Finding: Estimates of carrying capacity are likely to be uncertain, and carrying capacity is subject to change over time as ecosystems and socioeconomic circumstances change. Recommendation: BMPs and regulations that are linked to carrying capacity must take uncertainty and change into account, which can be done by framing the standards and their implementation within a context of adaptive management, reviewing them at regular intervals, and changing them as additional information becomes available.
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