The role of shore crabs and mussel density in mussel losses at a commercial intertidal mussel plot after seeding

Jacob J. Capelle*, Gerard Scheiberlich, Jeroen W.M. Wijsman, Aad C. Smaal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Mussel losses peak after relaying seed on culture plots. The present paper is an attempt to examine the role of shore crab predation and initial mussel density on mussel losses in mussel bottom culture using an intertidal culture plot as a case study. Because of their small size and loose attachment, mussels are particularly vulnerable to predation at this stage, as well as to handling stress and intraspecific competition. In the experimental field plots (1 × 1 m) in the intertidal Oosterschelde, three different densities (1, 5 and 10 kg m−2) of mussel seed are laid, with half of the experimental plots protected from predation by means of exclosures. Duration of the experiment was 5 weeks (August–September 2012) post-seeding. Protection was the major factor accounting for biomass production, followed by mussel density. Loss rates increased with mussel density, both in the exclosures and in the exposed plots. Losses in the exclosures with the lowest density were still 45 %. There are indications that handling stress prior to the start of the experiment played a major role in these losses. At the higher densities in the exclosures, losses increased to 72.1 % and were not significantly different between 5 and 10 kg m−2. About one-third of the total loss (32.6 %) was attributed to shore crab predation. The number of shore crabs observed on the plots did not differ between treatments. Byssal thread development during the experimental period was followed and was found to be a slow process that was insufficient to protect mussels from crab predation at the sheltered experimental location.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1459-1472
JournalAquaculture International
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Attachment strength
  • Byssus
  • Carcinus maenas
  • Mussel culture
  • Mussel density
  • Mytilus edulis


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