EU Shellfish Aquaculture Improves Water Quality, Study Shows

European shellfish aquaculture can help reduce negative water quality impacts of excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) in coastal communities, according to a recent study funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme. The study, conducted by a multi-national team during the GAIN project (Green Aquaculture Intensification in Europe http://www.unive.it/gainh2020_eu) examined the potential for including aquaculture of mussels, oysters, and clams in watershed-scale nutrient management policies.

Nutrient discharges to coastal waterbodies can stimulate excessive growth of algae leading to water quality degradation with consequences such as low oxygen, dead fish, and/or harmful algal blooms. These nutrient-related impacts have been reported for many EU estuaries.

Ria de Vigo, Spain. Panoramic view from O Morrazo.

Nutrient pollution, or eutrophication, is typically controlled by  preventing nutrient discharges to coastal waters through management measures including wastewater treatment and careful use of agriculture fertilizer. Wastewater treatment has been very successful in reducing direct loads, but reductions that require major changes in agriculture, livestock, and community management are economically costly and may have severe social consequences.

Growing bivalve shellfish provides direct economic benefits to a community by supporting jobs and making local seafood available to consumers. It also provides ecosystem services—benefits that nature provides to people—including reductions of algae, which are eaten by the clams, oysters and mussels. The shellfish absorb nutrients into their tissue and shell and remove algae and nutrients from the waterbody, contributing to the environmental sustainability of estuaries, bays, and coastal zones.

Panoramic view of Ria de Vigo.

The removal of algae by filter-feeding bivalve shellfish is an important and economically valuable ecosystem service—in the USA, compensation to shellfish farmers for the water clearance service they provide is at an advanced stage of debate; in the Chesapeake Bay, growers have been paid for services provided by oyster aquaculture.

Results of this study will provide the basis for strategic guidelines to develop a nutrient credit trading programme in Europe. Our study shows that EU annual production of over half a million metric tons of bivalves removes between 5 and 13 thousand tons of nitrogen per year. The annual cost of removing the same amount of nutrients using other measures would be between 18 and 48 billion €.

Bateas, Vigo, Spain

“Our hope is that our approach will be useful throughout the EU, and that our positive results will help inform discussions about the value of shellfish aquaculture to water quality, in addition to seafood provision,” said Prof. Roberto Pastres, coordinator of the GAIN project.

Prof. Pastres added “We recommend the inclusion of bivalves within comprehensive nutrient management plans. Shellfish farming, with its reduced ecological footprint, net removal of organic material, and low food-web nutritional requirements, is perhaps the best example of nature-based intensification for blue growth.”

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“Good Fish – Good Food” online conference

October 16th is the international #WorldFoodDay

GAIN partners invite you to celebrate this date by attending the online conference “Good Fish – Good Food: Drive the transformation towards sustainable food for all”, an occasion for discussing about sustainability and innovation in and for the food sector.

Register for Good Fish Good Food at www.epcsrl.eu/good-fish-good-food/.

How can we really achieve fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food systems? What does it means sustainability from farm (and sea) to fork? Are we ready for a change in our production and consumption habits?

We will discuss with Christine Mauracher from the Agrifood Management & Innovation Lab of Ca’ Foscari University, with chef Stefano Polato, who cooks for astronauts at the Argotec Space food Lab, with Joao Ferreira from Longline Environment, expert of sustainability for the aquaculture and fisheries sectors, with Marie Shrestha from ttz Bremerhaven, who will bring cities and policy actors point of view, and with Roberto Pastres and Raffaella Lioce, bringing the experience of two large European projects, GAIN on sustainable aquaculture, and Cities2030 on urban food systems.

The participation at the event is free and open to everyone. For organizational purpose we ask to register by October 14th through this link www.epcsrl.eu/good-fish-good-food/.

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We are One – Aren’t we?

By: Candice Jade Parkes

Sustainable farming sometimes seems like an unreachable glamorous idea. How do you feed almost 8 billion people in a sustainable way when we already know that habitats are being lost, species are going extinct, water resources are running out, etc. It seems like a fantasy.

But on a smaller scale, this may be possible. Using the ocean as a farming seascape is a great opportunity, but how do we make sure that we do not farm the sea in the same destructive way we have farmed the dry lands?

I recently worked on a project with the aim of intensifying fish and shellfish farms while improving animal welfare, all in an environmentally friendly way. This too seems like a glamorous idea. But with the help of local fishermen, scientists, software developers and, of course, you the consumer, this can be made possible.

Fundamentally, we need to realize that we do not function alone in this world, we are all part of a ‘bigger something’ that pulses and beats together, connected in one way or another. Two birds that communicate through songs, Blue Whales and Penguins that both eat krill, migrations, the metamorphosis and shedding of exoskeletons, the oxygen we breathe, the light we see, and the arms and legs that move us – we are all connected, and sustainability IS reachable is when we understand this connection.

The GAIN objective

By: Andre Sobral Lopes

Yesterday we launched the official GAIN project Youtube channel:

The GAIN project

The GAIN project aims are to promote the eco-intensification of aquaculture. But what does this mean?

To sustainably farm more fish in the same area, i.e. to make more with less! With the combination of precision aquaculture, improved feeds and re-using secondary products while reducing waste, we aim to grow a healthier and environmentally friendlier fish.

A goodfish: tasty, nutritious, sustainable and happy.

To define this ’goodfish‘ we need to understand its economic and environmental sustainability, welfare as well as its nutritional and taste qualities. This way we can support consumers and businesses with metrics based on good data that compare seafood options and guide good choices.

This is the end game of GAIN: to help provide more and better seafood for the future.

Costs and benefits of innovative Eco-sustainable aquaculture practices

Authors: Cornelia Kreiß & Simone Brüning

The latest GAIN project developments on the impacts of eco-intensification innovations, found that novel feeds with commercially available emerging ingredients, could lead to farm profitability losses in most cases. This was especially true for diets combining different emerging ingredients, and in diets with smaller amounts of processed animal proteins (PAP) in addition to these new ingredients.

The most pronounced losses were found for seabream production. This was partly due to the decreased feed conversion rates when using novel feeds. The already high feed costs per kg of fish produced, when compared with trout and salmon, was also a factor in profitability losses. PAP feeds, however, were more promising from an economic point of view, especially for Atlantic salmon production.

What would you pay for high quality produced fish originating from European waters GAIN aims to work on eco-intensified production for seabream and salmon amongst others?

These results illustrate the demand for more affordable alternative ingredients, such as the upcoming GAIN-developed by-products. Consumer willingness-to-pay for more sustainable grown fish might also play a significant role in order for producers to stay profitable or to reach break-even.

Salmon farm in Norway.

Room for improvement was also identified for the valorisation of fish and shellfish by-products, especially for species with lower production volume and market-share of processed products, such as carp. The costs and benefits of the next generation of novel GAIN feeds, focused in adding value to by-products and side streams will be addressed in the upcoming work within the project.

Surrounded by innovation

By: Meredith Burke and Catilin Stockwell

Over the past few decades, technological advances have completely revolutionized our society. It has influenced the way we live our lives, from the way we watch TV, to the way we conduct our scientific research. However, the aquaculture industry has fallen by the wayside. Big data, collected and distributed to our hands in the form of apps, have begun to dominate our world, so why is this not the case in one of the fastest growing industries in the world?

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Farming fish with the Atlantic Canada in the background

Atlantic Canada has recently emerged as a global leader in ocean technology, as well as playing host to one of the largest aquaculture companies in the world, Cooke Aquaculture. We have the unique opportunity of being surrounded by innovation. We are able to work side by side with the developers, as well as the consumers, to field test new technologies, and optimize their performance prior to commercialization.

However, aquaculture is still a relatively young industry, often operating in remote places, so introducing the use of technology has been difficult. Through research projects, we have been able to merge two key industry partners: ocean technology via InnovaSea, and salmon aquaculture, through Cooke, in order to improve management practices.

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Meredith’s research focuses primarily on using real-time sensors to study water quality parameters, like oxygen and temperature, to understand how they vary through a farm, and what may influence these variations. At the same time, Caitlin uses acoustic telemetry to track fish movement in order to understand fish behaviour and improve welfare management. These two projects together allow us to provide a more holistic view of fish farming to create a more sustainable industry.

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We hope that our work will help inform other aquaculture industries throughout the world, to become more innovative, improve farming practices, and ultimately create happier and healthier fish, with the ability to feed a growing population.