Designing an integrated environmental monitoring plan for land-based marine fish farms located at exposed and hard bottom coastal areas
The increase in aquaculture activities in the last few decades has not been accompanied by a corresponding increase in environmental controls and regulations. In this context, the application of environmental monitoring plans (EMPs) has become necessary to assess the environmental impact associated with fish farming wastes. The objective of this review paper is to evaluate the suitability of experimental and analytical procedures as monitoring tools for inclusion in EMPs for intensive land-based marine fish farms (LBMFFs). The strong hydrodynamics and, in particular, the lack of sediment on the rocky coasts where LBMFFs are usually located, greatly limit the monitoring tools that can be used. We propose EMPs that employ a weight-of-evidence approach to evaluate: contamination, trophic and toxic effects, and ecological integrity. Laboratory tests, in situ bioassays and field surveys of local species are presented as key tools for assessing the impact of LBMFFs on ecosystems. The δ15N signal along a spatial gradient is proposed for evaluating exposure to contaminants. Trophic effects can be determined by growth of transplanted macro- and microalgae. Toxic effects can be evaluated by responses at different levels of biological organization, including biochemical and histological changes, physiological alterations and survival, in species from different trophic levels. Fouling tests and analysis of community structures are recommended for assessing ecological integrity. This review contributes to the development of environmental controls for intensive LBMFFs, and for other activities that discharge wastewater to rocky shores.