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Seasonal Fouling Stress on the Farmed Pearl Oyster, Pinctada fucata, from Southeastern Arabian Sea

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Abstract

Biofouling on the periostracum of pearl oysters and on the cages has been considered as a stress factor causing mortality of the farmed stock, reducing growth rates and also affecting pearl quality. In farming experiments using the pearl oyster, Pinctada fucata, at Kollam Bay (India), biofouling was found to be a problem. This study was conducted to understand the effect of fouling on the mortality of pearl oysters kept in suspended culture, to identify the main foulers, the seasonal variation in biofouling and species successions in the community with reference to abiotic factors. The average monthly mortality rate (MR) was estimated as 0.117 ± 0.002 and the monthly variations were significantly different (P < 0.01). The total fouling (0.163 ± 0.002 g/g oyster) and biofouling weights (0.166 ± 0.007 g/g oyster) were high in December when the fouling community was composed of several species and dominated by the ascidian, Didemnum sp. December was also the period when the MRs peaked indicating that this organism was the main cause of mortality in pearl farms in Kollam Bay. A clear seasonality in the fouling community (25 species belonging to nine phyla) has been observed in the present study. On the basis of this study, monthly cleaning of oysters is advocated except during December, January, and March when the cleaning should be fortnightly.

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