i) What is your contribution to the MedAID project?
In MedAID, I am working on Work-package 1 (Holistic sustainability assessment of Mediterranean aquaculture: zootechnical, environmental, economic, social and governance). This Work-package will carry out a thorough holistic assessment of the sustainability of the Mediterranean marine fish farming sector, with a particular focus on the farm’s zootechnical performance, environmental and social sustainability, health, welfare and diseases, economic aspects and governance.
Within this work package, we aim at evaluating the potential environmental and social impact related to the production and distribution of aquaculture products. I participate as leader of Task 1.3 (Environmental and social sustainability of Mediterranean aquaculture chains applying Life Cycle thinking), which has as objective to study the sustainability of the aquaculture industry and supply chains, identify main causes and origins of the environmental impact (hot spots identification). These hot spots will be worked out as recommendations for environmental improvement actions for the aquaculture companies.
The whole assessment will be done following the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology. We have already created the specific questionnaires to collect the necessary data for the environmental and social assessment of the whole production chain of selected companies. Data from hatcheries and ongrowing farms is being collected by the project in Task 1.1. through a multifactorial survey collecting technical and socioeconomic information, while data from farms to market is collected in collaboration with the “Market advisory group” (defined in WP-5: Product development, market and consumer assessment).
The environmental and social evaluation will be carried out using the SENSE-tool, developed in a the FP7 SENSE project and validated within 9 European aquaculture chains (Ramos et al., 2016: 0980-x). This online tool performs a full environmental and social assessment for each specific food product, and also allows comparisons between companies and/or with the industrial aggregate average.
In this task, we will need to incorporate new and updated datasets to suit the specific circumstances of Mediterranean aquaculture (e.g. feed and feed ingredients used for the selected species, organic load of wastewater. In addition, some indicators will be regionalized for the Mediterranean conditions (e.g. water resource depletion, eutrophication, acidification).
The indicators values for each aquaculture product will be the basis for identifying the main environmental impact causes and origins (hot spots identification) and will be worked out as recommendations for environmental improvement actions for Mediterranean aquaculture companies. With the environmentally characterized aquaculture companies, a benchmarking exercise based on DEA (Data Envelopment Analysis) will be proposed for each typology of Mediterranean aquaculture farming.
ii) Why is this research needed?
Aquaculture is currently playing, and will continue to play, a significant role in boosting global fish production and in meeting rising demand for fishery products. In 2013, fish accounted already for about 17 % of animal protein consumed by the global population diet. Moreover, it is projected to be the prime source of seafood by 2030, as demand grows from the global middle class and wild capture fisheries approach their maximum take.
However, the huge growth expected for aquaculture products makes necessary a more sustainable aquaculture development to mitigate the environmental impacts linked to this growth. In common with all other food production practices, aquaculture is facing challenges for sustainable development. Major impacts for the aquaculture industry include:
– Pressure on some fisheries resources
– Eutrophication and acidification of ecosystems
– Possible introduction and spread of exotic species or pathogens
– Chemical pollution
– Habitat destruction for farm siting or due to farm activities
With the environmental and social impact assessment performed in task 1.3. we will evaluate the sustainability of the different production systems (type of feeds, fuel uses or nutrient discharges to the ecosystem) and propose a series of recommendations to reduce to the possible minimum the environmental and social impact related to the production of Mediterranean aquaculture species.
iii) What are the main expected outcomes/or possible impacts on the sector?
The whole assessment will be performed following an : the Product Environmental Footprint methodology derived from the Single Market for Green Products initiative. This policy (COM 2013/179/EU) is currently in its transition stage, and the Commission is evaluating different ways to implement it into the food and drink companies across Europe. Thanks to the MedAID project the Mediterranean aquaculture sector will go ahead of future legislation.
Among that, most environmental practices and technologies will be also published in order to promote environmental and social improvements. Frequently, those practices are associated to economic saving, such as energy consumption optimization or waste minimization.
iv) What other projects/activities are you working on?
Results obtained in this project are very useful for both the productive sector and the scientific-technological sector. We expect to transfer the results to the productive sector (farms, retailers, etc.) and to disseminate non-confidential results in scientific journals or international conferences.
Apart from this work on MedAID, the sustainable department of AZTI is also working in several national and international projects:
• LIFE BREWERY (2017 – 2020). The general objective of Life Brewery (project of the LIFE Environment and Resource Efficiency programme) is to demonstrate in a real case study, in a representative EU producing Region, through a full scale trial, the feasibility of an innovative and sustainable integrated Valorisation Scheme to increase significantly the brewer by-products recovery at European level, through their up-grading as aqua-feed ingredients, satisfying the highly increasing demand of alternative new raw materials for aqua-feed production.
• LIFE AQUAPEF (2018 – 2021). In September 2018 we will start a new LIFE project, AQUAPEF. The main objective of the AQUAPEF project is to promote the implementation of the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) initiative and methodology into the Mediterranean aquaculture sector by developing an integrative methodology and tool to facilitate data availability, footprint calculation, verification and B2B and B2C communication. This project will validate and demonstrate the usefulness of PEF methodology as an effective tool for environmental improvement of aquaculture products in an easy and comprehensive way.
• VALACUI (2017 – 2018). The objective of the project #VALACUI “Innovative strategies for the valorisation of aquaculture waste” is to promote sustainable aquaculture and the efficient use of resources through the promotion of innovation and the transfer of knowledge in the field of the valorization of aquaculture by-products. For this, innovative strategies for the valorization of aquaculture by-products are being evaluated and will be reflected in a guide that will include the options for valorization, as well as a methodology for the selection of the options based on the case study.
• EIT FISH (2017 – 2018). The increasing global market demand coupled with fish-food scandals, has generated a high level of safety concerns. This project provides tools for enhancing the trust in fish products. The objective of this collaboration is to generate new real-time, reliable, portable and friendly-to-use monitoring devices that help to assess the freshness, nutritional value, identity of certain types of fish, and the use of antibiotics. This project is financed by EIT-Food, the European Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) set up to transform our food ecosystem.
Saioa RAMOS, Researcher.
WP 1 – Holistic sustainability assessment of Mediterranean aquaculture: zootechnical, environmental, economic, social and governance