As concerns around sustainability of food security continue to rise, a team of European aquaculture experts are embarking on a four-year study 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 will create cost-efficient management tools and practices for the European aquaculture sector to investigate obstacles to fish farming activity. These include: location; social interaction; potential environmental impacts and future risks.

Aquaculture Study 2

Mussel lines in Killary Fjord, north Connemara. Photo Gillian Mills

Professor Trevor Telfer, Institute of Aquaculture, is leading the multi-partnership study that aims 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 Marine Institute is the Irish partner in the €7m EU Horizon 2020 funded project. Dr Dave Jackson is leading a work package that will feed into the ‘toolbox’.

The consortium will evaluate structures currently operating across the EU’s seas, lakes and rivers, and will exam 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.

The research team will collaborate with industry; regulators; certifiers and other stakeholders to ensure the toolbox is accessible. They will use training and outreach activities to improve the image of European aquaculture and to promote an integrated sustainability strategy.

“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,” stresed Professor Telfer. By developing new, flexible and unified approaches to aquaculture planning, we aim to strengthen sustainable growth in the vital marine and freshwater sectors.”

Dr Dave Jackson said the breadth of experience of the 15 consortium partners will enable sophisticated technologies, computer models and decision-making capabilities to be merged into a single, streamlined entity for regulators and producers to use.

“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. Aquaculture in European waters is a key driver for the blue economy, representing approximately 5.4 million jobs and generating a gross added-value of almost €500 billion a year,” he said.

The project will also support Ireland’s vision for aquaculture: ‘A sustainable and competitive aquaculture sector, where production will grow according to market and consumer demands and in balance with nature and society’, outlined in the National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture Development.