With concerns around sustainability of food security continuing to rise, a team of European aquaculture experts, including scientists from PML, will begin a four-year study worth almost €7 million to establish new strategies and models for sustainable growth in the industry.
The Tools for Assessment and Planning of Aquaculture Sustainability (TAPAS) project, led by the University of Stirling and with partner institutes from 10 European countries, will create cost-efficient management tools and practices for the European aquaculture sector to investigate the limits to fish farming activity in a location, social interactions, potential environmental impacts and any future risks.
Professor Trevor Telfer of the Institute of Aquaculture is leading the multi-partner study, which will seek to establish a comprehensive “toolbox” to support transparent and efficient licensing, enhance environment sustainability and aquatic food security while tapping into the potential for food production and jobs. The consortium will evaluate structures currently in operation across the EU’s seas, lakes and rivers, examining various environments and develop new approaches to deliver computer-based support systems for sustainable aquaculture expansion. The work is in line with the EU’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive to protect marine environments more effectively and will provide consistent real-time monitoring, observation, early forecasting and management technologies.
PML’s contribution to the project will focus around large-scale ecosystem models of the north east Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea, as well as high resolution models (farm scale), risk and growth projections of aquaculture, satellite processing of water quality and validation of satellite products. Research from the PML-led ROSA and ShellEye projects will also feed into the TAPAS project, providing advanced modelling capability and enhanced satellite observation techniques.
Dr Stefan Simis of PML comments: “The breadth of experience gained through our 15 consortium partners brings together sophisticated technologies, such as computer models and satellite observations, and decision-making capabilities into a streamlined toolkit for regulators and producers throughout Europe.”
The research team will collaborate with industry, regulators, certifiers and other stakeholders to ensure the toolbox they create is accessible, using training and outreach activities to improve the image of European aquaculture and promote an integrated sustainability strategy.
Dr Ian Payne of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council said: “As Europe continues to produce millions of tonnes of food each year, we want to ensure this industry is feeding the world in a sustainable way, while taking care of the environment. By developing new, flexible and unified approaches to aquaculture planning we aim to strengthen sustainable growth in the vital marine and freshwater sectors.”
The collaborative work will play a major role in the European Commissions’ strategy to achieve smart growth in aquaculture production across the region’s seas. Key drivers for the economy, these waters presently represent approximately 5.4 million jobs and generate a gross added value of almost €500 billion a year.