The shore crab, Carcinus maenas, is recognized as a voracious predator of blue mussels, Mytilus edulis, having the potential to greatly reduce stocks in the benthic cultivation industry. As a consequence, baited crab pots are often deployed on and around cultivated benthic mussel beds to trap and remove crabs, in an attempt to reduce predatory pressure. Little is known about how C. maenas behaves around crab pots, but for many other crustacean fisheries, the trapping efficiency of pots is often low. Crabs may be attracted towards but not enter pots, instead feeding on cultivated mussels outside pots on the surrounding substratum. We tested whether the rate of loss of mussels attached to plates differed in areas next to baited pots compared with unbaited pots and to areas without any pots, at two sea loughs (60 km apart) in Northern Ireland. In Strangford Lough, more mussels were lost from plates next to baited pots than the other treatments. In Carlingford Lough, however, we found no difference in the number of mussels lost from plates in any treatment. This difference could be attributed to the different assemblages of mobile benthic predators at the two loughs. The presence of the starfish Asterias rubens, which was absent from experimental sites in Carlingford Lough, was thought to be responsible for increased predation rates near baited pots in Strangford. It is, therefore, important to consider local predator communities when deploying crab pots as a predator mitigation technique to ensure predation rates are in fact reduced and not enhanced. This study is of relevance not only to attempts to limit predation on commercial stocks of benthic cultivated mussels but also in situations where baited traps are deployed close to species vulnerable to mobile benthic predators.
|Number of pages||9|
|Journal||ICES Journal of Marine Science|
|Early online date||24 Mar 2015|
|Publication status||Published - 2015|