Oyster Cages As Fish Habitat?
NOAA Divers at the National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Milford, Connecticut are participating in a research project to record fish activity around oyster cages in Long Island Sound.
Cages are used in aquaculture to protect young oysters from predators. In order to maximize production, oyster farmers use multi-dimensional cages to grow more oysters on a smaller footprint, adding structure to the seafloor. Since fish will use just about any structure as cover, researchers were interested in how cages may provide habitat and ecosystem services to fish. NOAA Divers are assisting in the project by placing T-platform mounting systems that hold cameras adjacent to boulders on the seafloor to record fish activity on a natural rock reef to compare to fish interactions with aquaculture gear.
Initial observations seem to note an increase in activity around the gear which could mean fish are indeed using the cages as habitat, with an overall positive impact on Long Island Sound.
You can read more about this project and the NOAA Divers that are participating in a recent New Haven Register article at https://bit.ly/2mvwhkn.