An EU initiative has developed a framework to help secure sustainable development and growth in fish farming.
Identified as one of the sectors with a high potential for sustainable jobs and growth in the EU’s Blue Growth Strategy, aquaculture has been in the spotlight in recent years. In 2017, aquaculture production in the EU reached a decade high of 1.37 million t with a value of EUR 5.06 billion, according to a report by the European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products. Although almost all of EU aquaculture production is consumed in Europe, the EU is a net importer of fisheries and aquaculture products, and the availability of these in the domestic market is mostly dependent on extra-EU supplies.
With the consumption of fish and shellfish expected to rise further, and climate change rapidly affecting fisheries and habitats, the EU aquaculture industry’s sustainability has become an ever more pressing concern. Addressing this challenge and recognising the need for a coherent and efficient regulatory framework to realise the aquaculture industry’s full potential, the EU-funded TAPAS project has developed a set of tools and guidance. “The existing tools needed by the aquaculture industry to make the thorough sustainability assessments are often difficult to understand, making them inaccessible to those they are aimed at,” says Prof. Trevor Telfer from project coordinator the University of Stirling.
Quoted in the same news item on ‘SeaWestNews’, Prof. Telfer adds: “The regulatory and licensing process in Europe needs to be more transparent, with better communication of decision-making and regulatory frameworks. This would not only improve the industry itself, but also public perception of aquaculture.” With the project reaching its end, “the team is preparing to launch the Aquaculture Toolbox, a web-based decision support framework that will host the tools and guidance from the project,” he says. “The team have worked hard to make the Aquaculture Toolbox accessible and easy to understand for a range of users from industry, policy and planning.”
To develop the tools, the TAPAS team used data gathered through fieldwork, ongoing monitoring and Earth observation. Case studies in France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Malta, Norway, Scotland and Spain have tested and validated the approaches developed by the team to ensure scientific rigour and reliability in the tools that will be provided to the industry. A variety of species like salmon, trout, sea bass, sea bream, oysters and mussels have been covered by the case studies in both marine and freshwater environments. The TAPAS (Tools for Assessment and Planning of Aquaculture Sustainability) project is scheduled to end in early 2020. Project partners hope that the toolbox will improve the efficiency and transparency of aquaculture licensing in Europe.
Prof. Telfer says: “The future of European aquaculture depends on securing the sustainability of the industry. With this help, the European aquaculture industry can continue to develop and fulfil its potential to deliver sustainable Blue Growth for European nations.”
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