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Keywords:

  • aquaculture;
  • British Columbia;
  • flocs;
  • nutrients;
  • suspended sediment;
  • trace elements

Abstract

Open ocean pen aquacultural operations are leaky systems with potential environmental impacts of metabolic excretions products, feed additives, and anti-fouling agents. This study analysed the water–sediment interface along a horizontal transect away from a fish farm, noting variations between water, floc, and sediment properties. The properties examined included nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), carbon (C), sulphur (S), and trace element content, as well as heterotrophic bacteria populations. C, N, labile P, NH4, Ca, and Zn were elevated in surface sediments at the farm in comparison with sites 100 and 300 m away. The flocs had higher levels of Mg, K, and heterotrophic bacteria than adjacent sediments, indicating the importance of the microbial communities in flocs. The flocs were important in their role as a retention and potential transport mechanism for metals, increasing in concentration of Al, Fe, and Mn with distance from the farm.