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Deliverable D1.3 – Integrated Holistic Assessment of Mediterranean Aquaculture

Aquaculture, besides being an economic activity that generates employment in coastal and rural areas, is a source of food, essential to ensure food security. This is clearly specified in the FAO report The State of Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018 (FAO, 2018), which states that “With capture fishery production relatively static since the late 1980s, aquaculture has been responsible for the continuing impressive growth in the supply of fish for human consumption”.

In the Mediterranean, the demand for fishery products has been rising steadily during the last decades, due to an important population growth and an increase in human per capita consumption (CIHEAM, 2010). These developments have caused a growing pressure on Mediterranean fish stocks, most of which (about 78%) are currently being fished at biologically unsustainable levels, according to FAO-GFCM (FAO, 2018b). Thus, as in other areas, Mediterranean countries are facing an important and growing seafood supply deficit that can only be compensated by aquaculture.

The development of the Mediterranean aquaculture sector, as it could have been expected, at least in the European countries. The stagnant production of marine fish aquaculture in the European Mediterranean contrasts with the development observed in neighbouring countries (i.e. Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey). There are many factors that may have caused this situation, resulting in a limited competitiveness that seems to be linked to multiple components throughout the production cycle and the value chain. Doubts remain as to whether low zootechnical productivity is caused by a lack of genetically improved fish, poor feed performance, inadequate health management, or a combination of these and other environmental factors. The lack of market strategies and an insufficient knowledge of consumer preferences have also been questioned. On the other hand, companies develop their business in a complex economic environment. All these factors, together with the increased competition for coastal uses, a low public perception of aquaculture and a complex administrative framework, constitute a major challenge for aquaculture development.

In this context, the MedAID project (Mediterranean Aquaculture Integrated Development) aims to increase the competitiveness and sustainability of the Mediterranean marine fish aquaculture sector along its value chain, by improving its technical productivity and economic performance with a market- and consumer-oriented approach, as well as higher social acceptability and better governance.

In the MedAID project, we believe that the problem is transnational and trans-species, as it was pointed out in the EAS2014 session and stressed in Rotterdam 2015: “Production has to be optimized in all aspects, i.e. feeding, efficiency, handling large numbers of individual fish, integrating technology development and careful slaughter.” The reasons above were considered by MedAID when defining a first Work-package (WP1) to develop a “Holistic sustainability assessment of Mediterranean aquaculture: zootechnical, environmental, economic, social and governance”. The results of each thematic analysis were presented in the “Deliverable D1.2: Assessment of Mediterranean Aquaculture Sustainability.”  Thereafter, some additional results and a more integrated analysis were made and are presented here in the Deliverable D1.3: “Integrated holistic assessment of Mediterranean aquaculture.”

The Mediterranean fish marine aquaculture sector analysis shows that sales volumes amounted to 373,000 metric tons and 1,300 million juveniles, valued at 1,500-1,700 million euros in 2016 (MedAID’s data compilation from different sources). Based on Davidsson models (Akureyri & FAO, 2009) the value of the whole Mediterranean aquaculture chain would be estimated in more than 7 billion euros.

However, the distribution of this activity is not homogeneous throughout the Mediterranean area, and we find countries where it has a special importance or differentiates more, according to the type of activity or along the value chain.

In aggregate, more than 90% of the seabass and seabream production was located in just 6 countries (Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Spain, Tunisia, France and Italy) in 2016, and hatchery production was mainly concentrated (93%) in just 5 countries (Greece, Turkey, Spain, Italy and France).

Whereas the EU seabass and seabream on-growing production represents less than half of what is produced in the Mediterranean (44% in EU countries versus 56% in non-EU countries, in 2016), the distribution is different in what regards hatchery production (64% of juveniles are produced in EU countries versus 36% in non-EU countries).

Moreover, a deeper study of the situation at the subnational level can lead to observe that the sector is distributed in a non-homogenous way. This means that within each of the main producing countries, there is a very marked subnational concentration. For example, in Turkey, over 90% of the production is located in Izmir and Muğla provinces. This clustering effect, and its implications in the development of Mediterranean aquaculture, requires a more detailed analysis.

The generation of knowledge is a key factor influencing development and competiveness through Value Chains. Thus, for a better understanding of the current knowledge that supports the development of Mediterranean aquaculture, a bibliometric study has been conducted, based on scientific publications, focused on the seabass and seabream research; several searches were performed through the papers published in the last five years (from 2014 to 2018). These searches covered Mediterranean Aquaculture on three general research topics (zootechnics, genetics and animal health) regarded as essential in the project. The analysis only considered papers which have been produced within the Mediterranean regions or whose research focused on the Mediterranean area.

The bibliometric results show a positive progression year after year, indicating that research on seabream and seabass is still a relevant field. The most productive country in terms of research was Spain with 856 papers (44%), followed by Italy (352 papers, 18% of the production) and France (313 papers, 16%). Turkey, Greece and Portugal had a similar production (9%) in terms of research publications.

As expected, all the institutions behind the Top20 authors belong to the academic sector, although some companies – mainly Aquafeed and some additive producers- were identified: Biomar AS (10 papers within the Top20 authors), NOREL SA (7 papers within the Top20 authors), Alltech Aqua (3 papers with the Top20 authors) and Sparos Lda. (3 papers within the Top20 authors).

As regards the analysis of the Typology of aquaculture companies, the most relevant issue observed is that the Mediterranean seabream and seabass sector is heterogeneous, not because of the companies’ size or their level of technological specialization, but as a consequence of their adaptation to their environment and their business models. Competition based on knowledge and industrial secret prevails as one of the most valuable assets, especially in UE countries, even though the industry 4.0 provides effective and relatively affordable solutions. In the non-EU countries, the market drives the aquaculture sector.

Depending on the production model structure of each company surveyed, they were classified in 6 categories. This six-level clusterization model is the result of a “facility to facility” distribution grid where all companies surveyed have their own production model represented. The predominant model and apparent trend of the marine fish aquaculture in the Mediterranean, covering 57% of the total companies surveyed, is a big company (more than 100M fingerlings or more than 2,500 tons of ongrowing fish, with a generalist specialization profile: Different activities throughout the company and facilities with only one species produced per facility (Table 1).

Table 1: Description of the Classification Matrix Model Used for the Companies Surveyed

While there are more and more specialized companies incorporating Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and increasingly capturing and analyzing data throughout their production and business, most of the aquaculture industry is still finding it difficult to benefit from these potentials. The heterogeneity of the data and the lack of ICT training for the employees are two issues identified from the MedAID survey conducted among companies. Thus, for a strategic decision-making and in order to benefit from the enormous amount of information that companies have, the sector should consider the possibility of moving towards the harmonization of data collection systems and an adequate data processing method. An example of this situation is the fact that, although there is a considerable number of companies with a data collection system in place, most of them use their own software, so when it comes to perform a comparative or aggregate data analysis, the information available is not equivalent. In fact, an important challenge faced during MedAID project assessment has been performing an adequate data extraction, cleaning, and standardization.

To overcome this heterogeneity, MedAID followed an approach based on what has been defined as the MedAID PACK: Predictable, Accessible, Credible and Knowledge-based. A harmonized, consensual data collection based on equivalent parameters makes the data reliable, their structuring and shaping makes them accessible and this, in turn, allows the generation of knowledge, which is applied to make the sector predictable, thus reducing uncertainty.

This approach facilitates co-investment & co-innovation environments, creating networks to exchange and transfer knowledge, and it was preferred rather than developing a software package from scratch. A company specializing in aquaculture production management software was outsourced and asked for advice on how the data should be formatted, to make their integration and analysis easy. Then, an extension of their software was designed, adapting to the needs of the MedAID project and integrating the main indicators.

The analysis carried out in MedAID’s D1.2: “Assessment of Mediterranean Aquaculture Sustainability” has enabled the development of several indicators for each of the performance indicators analyzed, presenting a greater capacity to be used in the improvement of business and sector performance. The proposed Key Performance Indictors (KPIs) are predictors of temporary variables, which could be adapted or modified, over the duration of the project, according to the return provided by the sector and by those responsible for thetechnical WPs.

The encrypted, anonymized results of the companies that have participated in the holistic analysis and of those that could provide their data in the future will be presented in a dynamic, interactive format in the tool that MedAID is developing together with SmartWater Planet (SMMFF/SMWP). SmartWater Planet is a company specialized in the development of technology for the aquaculture sector. For years, their suite of products (hardware and software) has been developed with the aim of professionalizing the sector. MedAID Dashboard is a management tool that allows the producer to control production, measure it and make decisions accordingly. This enterprise resource planning system (ERP) includes a module developed for MedAID project that enables a company to be compared with other companies of the same characteristics, and even with FAO data. Nowadays, MedAID Dashboard includes around 45 KPIs that will help hatcheries and on-growing units in their analysis of competence and intercomparison with others that have a similar production model, in terms of their technological development and size.

MedAID partners and the attendants to the 1st MedAID Regional Workshop (24th January, 2019, Sant Carles de la Ràpita, Spain) were consulted about the WP1 results presented and their opinion and related comments, as well as their degree of satisfaction with the methodology, were requested. Their evaluation of the results presented, ranging from 1 (not interesting) to 5 (very interesting), gave a score of 4.8.

Although The subject of future collaboration certainly got divided opinions, since 50% of the attendees commented their willingness to provide data and 50% did not. It is evident that a dissemination and impulse work is required to present the strengths of this analysis and its potential, as well as to raise the sector’s awareness on the competitive advantage of sharing information.

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Strengthening diagnostic capacities and harmonising methods

The MedAID project (Mediterranean Aquaculture Integrated Development) aims to improve the key performance indicators (KPIs) of Mediterranean mariculture and considers health and welfare prerequisites for sustainable and profitable aquaculture in the Mediterranean area. Work-package 4: “Health management and diseases and fish welfare” addresses health issues and endeavours to provide tools and common strategies for the prevention and diagnosis of major diseases by creating an operative and collaborative Mediterranean platform. Task 4.2. “Strengthening diagnostic capacities by harmonising competences” focuses its objectives on i) The establishment of a network between all stakeholders included in diagnostics and health management, and ii) The evaluation of laboratory capacity and strengthening diagnostic capacity at national and regional level focusing on the most important pathogens.Continue reading

Deliverable D4.2 – Report on diagnostic capacities and harmonising methods

The MedAID project (Mediterranean Aquaculture Integrated Development) aims to improve the key performance indicators (KPIs) of Mediterranean mariculture and considers health and welfare prerequisites for sustainable and profitable aquaculture in the Mediterranean area. Work package 4: “Health management and diseases and fish welfare” addresses health issues and endeavours to provide tools and common strategies for the prevention and diagnosis of major diseases by creating an operative and collaborative Mediterranean platform. Task 4.2. “Strengthening diagnostic capacities by harmonising competences” focuses its objectives on i) The establishment of systems for communication between key players within diagnostics and health management, and ii) The evaluation of laboratory capacity and strengthening of diagnostic competence at national and regional level focusing on the most important pathogens. Given that European sea bass and Gilthead sea bream diseases are listed neither in OIE aquatic code nor in EU legislation, and there are no standards for the improvement of their health, the first step was to define the most relevant diseases requiring improved diagnostics methodologies. The list of the most important diseases was created as a product of several activities: i) results of the survey organised by European Union Reference Laboratory (EURL) for Fish and Crustacean Diseases for fish diseases addressed to a group of fish pathologists from the Mediterranean region consisted of questions designated to identify and characterise the most important diseases and map the health issues and infectious diseases, ii) the working group discussions during the annual meetings of national reference laboratories for fish diseases organised to define the perception of the impact and risk of infectious fish diseases in different parts of Europe, iii) data collected during the “Workshop on animal health and risk analysis in finfish aquaculture in the Mediterranean and Black Sea” organised by GFCM, in Larnaca, Cyprus on 3-4 October 2018 and iv) the results described in the MedAID “Assessment of the sustainability of Mediterranean aquaculture” (project Deliverable 1.2). These documents streamlined the selection of viral and bacterial diseases needing harmonised and improved diagnostic protocols. The diagnostic procedures for selected viral and bacterial diseases  are described in the MedAID’s “Diagnostic manual for the main pathogens in European sea bass and Gilthead sea bream aquaculture”. The diagnostic manual consists of the detailed protocols for sampling, shipping and receipt of samples in the laboratory, followed by protocols for diagnosis of Viral Nervous Necrosis (VNN), Vibriosis caused by V. anguillarum and V. harveyi, Photobacteriosis, infections caused by Aeromonas spp., Tenacibaculum spp., Mycobacterium spp., procedures in the case of mortalities caused by unknown pathogens and reporting of the results of diagnostic procedures. This manual can be a very useful document to improve individual laboratory competence, select the methods to be harmonized and secure confidence in test results throughout the Mediterranean basin. The diagnostic manual will be published in journal “Option Mediterannennes” by the end of the current year.

The capacity of a laboratory to diagnose and genotype VNN was evaluated by means of interlaboratory proficiency testing and it was concluded that there is a room for improvement, particularly in the ability of laboratories to genotype different genotypes of NNV.

Using Google forms, in cooperation with the PerformFISH H2020 Project, the diagnostic capacities of fifty-two laboratories throughout the Mediterranean basin were evaluated. It is concluded that capacities are not in tune with the aquaculture production and the pathways of improvement and strengthening should be imposed. More efforts should be put into building the capacities of countries lacking specific techniques, and systems for improved training of laboratory personnel is highly requested.

The process of strengthening diagnostic capacities started through activities such as the establishment of the MedAID Online Health Forum (which has already launched 3 open discussions on topics such as Sparicotylosis, VNN and Tenacibaculosis) and by organising advanced training courses for professionals on Aquatic Animal Health (as the two courses organised by CIHEAM with collaboration of MedAID and other importante international partners. The above mentioned Diagnostic Manual will also contribute to the aim of enhancing diagnostic capacities. Such activities are important to sustain as pillars for improving disease management in the Mediterranean.

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Deliverable D6.2 – Market dynamics

MedAID task 6.2 focuses on the analysis of market equilibrium by the estimation of the supply and demand functions at various levels of the value chain and under different competitive environments.  The market for seabass and seabream is periodically shocked by instability and price volatility, seriously compromising the profitability of the business and the survival of the industry (STECF, 2014, 2016, 2018). The analysis performed here attempts to identify the causes of this instability and to be used as reference for the development of strategic marketing recommendations to avoid upcoming risks and failures.

The analysis is performed at different levels which involve long and short term, international and national markets and disaggregated by value chain levels. Every model was tested for those National markets where information is available, with the required periodicity and in long enough series to fit with the minimum sample size. Unfortunately these data are not available or complete for all countries in the required format. However, the main national markets, covering about three quarters of total seabass and seabream consumption and production, are included in the analysis in one or several models.Continue reading

Seminar on Common pathological problems in marine fish farms and hatcheries as well as the role of biosecurity in preventing their spread

Last month, on 12 June 2019, more than 50 experts attended the MedAID seminar on “Common pathological problems in marine fish farms and hatcheries as well as the role of biosecurity in preventing their spread”, which was held in Alexandria, Egypt, at the National Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries (NIOF). During the seminar, experts from NIOF, the University of Alexandria, the University of Cairo, and CIHEAM Zaragoza presented the project MedAID and the topic “Diseases and biosecurity, the most prevalent diseases affecting marine fish farming in Egypt and in Spain”, as well as the preliminary results of the survey conducted in Spain on Biosecurity measures and management in marine fish farming. The participants discussed the impacts of disease in marine fish farms and possible control measures, including the levels of biosecurity that could be implemented.Continue reading

Local workshop on “Disease prevalence and biosecurity in Spanish marine fish farming”

Last week, on March 28, 2019, took placed in Zaragoza a MedAID Seminar of the Spanish Working Group of the Work-package 4 on Health management, diseases and animal welfare. Forty experts from all the steps of the aquaculture value chain working on fish diseases diagnosis, management and prevention met to analyze the current situation the regarding prevalence of main diseases, about biosecurity measures and the need for a further communication and coordination among involved experts, companies and institutions.

Economic performance indicators for aquaculture

This brief text aims to highlight some of the most common economic indicators used to assess the economic performance of aquaculture production, both from the point of view of the industry as a whole, and from the point of view of aquaculture companies*.
In economics, there is no consensus on which indicator would best determine the economic performance of a sector or company. Indeed, there are used several indicators depending on what is the focus of interest (e.g. the society or the companies) and data availability. Different indicators are usually used or combined depending on the object of analysis. The same profitability indicator used to analyse the economic performance of the investments made, is not suitable to study the economic performance for the owners of the company.
In order to show the main indicators in a simple and clear way, we have divided the text into three sections. Firstly, we describe some of the main indicators used to analyse the economic situation at industry level. Next, we highlight the importance of the relative indicators as a tool to develop comparisons between different countries, production systems or types of companies. Finally, although all the indicators mentioned in the two first sections are also used in the economic analyses at company level, we dedicate the third section to explain other relative indicators that are very important when analysing the economic performance of aquaculture companies.Continue reading

European and Mediterranean Aquaculture data collection and reporting under the STECF

Fisheries and aquaculture are managed under the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)
Managing the exploitation of fish and shellfish stocks in European marine waters falls under the European Union (EU)’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which was formally established in 1983 (Council of the European Communities, 1983), and has since undergone reforms in 1992, 2002, and 2013 (EU, 2013). The scope of the CFP extends to joint conservation, management and exploitation of living aquatic resources by EU member states, with the objective of biological, economic and social sustainability.

The CFP requires considering scientific advice (based on Dörner et al., 2018)
The Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE – (https://ec.europa.eu/maritimeaffairs) is the European Commission’s department responsible for implementation of the CFP. The CFP explicitly requires the European Commission to take ‘into account available scientific, technical and economic advice’ (EU, 2013) when drafting legislative proposals for the European Parliament and Council. Accordingly, European Commission proposals relating to fisheries management must be based on scientific advice. Hence implementation of the CFP requires both the assistance of specialised experts and the availability of high-quality data and analyses. The European Commission’s own expert scientific independent advisory body on fisheries and aquaculture is the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF – https://stecf.jrc.ec.europa.eu/index.html). The STECF is being consulted at regular intervals on matters pertaining to the conservation and management of living aquatic resources, including biological, economic, environmental, social and technical considerations (European Commission, 2016). The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) also has a role in the scientific advisory process by providing advice directly to DG MARE, through participation in the STECF and its Expert Working Groups (EWGs).Continue reading

Health forum discussion on Tenacibaculum

Dates: 11-22 February 2019
Forum coordinator: Dr. Snježana Zrnčić, HVI. Zagreb, Croatia.
Discussion moderators:
Dr. Alain le Breton, VETEAU, France
Dr. Jean-François Bernardet, INRA, Centre de Recherches Virologie et Immunologie Moleculaire, France

After a pause, with proposed discussion on tenacibaculosis, the MedAID Health Forum will again put efforts to gather field diagnosticians, laboratories, relevant authorities in charge of disease management in the Mediterranean mariculture and other stakeholders.

Tenacibaculum infection (previously known as flexibacteriosis) represents one of the first bacterial conditions being reported in marine aquaculture in a large range of species including flat fish like sole (Solea solea) and turbot (Schopthalmus maximus); and finfish, namely sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and sea bream (Sparus aurata). The disease is associated to the infection with bacteria from the genus Tenacibaculum spp. In some marine areas or in recirculation systems, the infection severely threatens production with mortalities rising over 30%.Continue reading