Deliverable D8.5 – Recommendations for promoting new aquaculture systems to reduce environmental impacts

The MedAID project (Mediterranean Aquaculture Integrated Development) aims to increase the competitiveness and sustainability of the Mediterranean marine fish aquaculture sector throughout its value chain, by improving its technical productivity and economic performance with a market- and consumer-oriented approach, as well as achieving higher social and environmental acceptability and better governance (Aguilera et al.,  2019). The development of aquaculture will necessarily involve an increase in the spaces devoted to this activity, due to the expansion of existing businesses and/or the creation of new ones. Conflicts pertaining to the use of marine space and the implementation of existing policies and legislation are two of the main factors hindering aquaculture growth (Galparsoro et al.,  2020). Marine spatial management must be improved to facilitate site selection processes, alongside the establishment of transparent procedures and licencing processes, thus reducing the length of time and investment needed to develop new aquaculture activities. In addition, the increase in production will generate a proportional increase in the amounts of feed, which are often produced outside the countries concerned. If aquaculture is to double its production by 2030, the sector must improve its productivity, without compromising environmental performance (Lotze et al., 2019). Aquaculture can affect ecosystems (socially, economically and environmentally) positively or negatively, and aquaculture can be impacted by other human activities. Environmental impacts vary greatly depending on the type of farming in question (inland open flow, RAS, cages in protected areas or offshore) and husbandry practices (species, stocking density, feed composition, etc …). As for marine fish, whereas fry production takes place in inland hatcheries, as well as many pre-ongrowing farms, most ongrowing production takes place in sea cages, where the carrying capacity of the surrounding environment (hydrodynamic circulation, sediment characteristics etc…) is a critical constraint. To ensure sustainable development, ecological carrying capacity should be considered and environmental impacts of aquaculture should be minimized by either improving farm management or production systems, site selection, etc… Furthermore, all other uses of water and natural resources must also contribute to ensuring a sustainable ecosystem. The objective of this report (D8.5) is to review inputs and recommendations from international organizations and recent EU projects on environmental impact assessments, environmental monitoring procedures, as well as to discuss technical solutions to reduce the environmental impacts of Mediterranean fish farming and promote environmentally sustainable development.

After a brief introduction on Mediterranean fish farm production based on MedAID results, the “Ecosystem Approach to Aquaculture” (EAA) framework and general aquaculture constraints at different spatial scales (farm, waterbody and regional scales) are described. We then focus on the key steps of the EAA: Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), Site Selection, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the Environmental Monitoring Procedure (EMP) before explaining how recent EU projects have developed tools and methods to facilitate these different steps. We reviewed decision support tools and methods tested and developed to facilitate spatial planning ( AQUASPACE), site selection and licencing procedures (TAPAS). We have then listed key indicators selected by stakeholders for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) and Environmental Monitoring Procedures (EMP) during different projects (including Indam and PerformFISH).

Finally, the local (eutrophication) and global (use of fishery resources, carbon footprint) environmental impacts related to feed and fish faeces are discussed. The main strategies and recommendations for minimizing the impact of feed are: improving feed use through improvement of FCR, feed composition or best management practices, implementing innovative farming systems such as recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) and Integrated Multi-trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) to improve the treatment and recovery of waste. Finally, prevention of fish escapees is reviewed (Prevent-Escape project).

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