There is a development which has the potential to deliver a more environmentally responsible and sustainable aquaculture industry in Europe – salmon farming is not the whole of it but is a reasonable everyday shorthand for the industry.
This is the setting up of a new European partnership between fish producers and researchers – and it is being led from Argyll – by the Scottish Association for Marine Science at Dunstaffnage, near Oban.
Aquaculture, which includes fish farming, faces increasing pressures as demand for seafood products grows while traditional wild fisheries are in decline.
This new European research project – inevitably afflicted with the EU’s penchant for silly acronyms – is called IDREEM (Increasing Industrial Resource Efficiency in European Mariculture).
It is being launched to protect the long-term sustainability of European aquaculture by developing and demonstrating a new innovative production technology, Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture or IMTA – described below.
The €5.7 million project, set to start in October 2012, is coordinated by the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) and delivered in collaboration with fourteen industrial and research partners from across Europe.
For the next four years, the IDREEM consortium will develop tools and methods to help the European aquaculture industry adopt more environmentally and economically efficient practices using IMTA on a commercial scale.
Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) is the combined cultivation of multiple commercially farmed species that belong to different levels on the food chain.
In an IMTA system, fish are farmed together with other species including shellfish (such as mussels) and algae or seaweed, creating a more efficient, cleaner and less wasteful production system. IMTA allows nutrients from fish farms that are otherwise lost to the environment to be turned into useful products as they are utilised by these additionally grown species.
IMTA addresses concerns about the future sustainability of aquaculture by increasing productivity and profitability while also reducing waste and over-reliance on raw materials from wild fish stocks.
The IDREEM project will demonstrate the benefits of IMTA through pilot commercial-scale testing, field research and modelling. Interdisciplinary research within IDREEM will examine the obstacles and risks to the use of IMTA systems and develop tools to overcome these constraints, whether they are economic, environmental, technical, social or regulatory.
IDREEM pairs aquaculture businesses and research institutions in strategic partnerships to promote rapid implementation, allowing instant transfer between research findings and commercial applications. The tools and methods developed within IDREEM will help aquaculture enterprises and policy makers gain a better understanding of the risks and benefits associated with IMTA.
The end result of the project will be the creation of a more efficient European aquaculture industry, based on the development of more economically and environmentally efficient technology. IDREEM will deliver tools and evidence to support the adoption of IMTA across the aquaculture industry, helping create employment and widening a market niche for IMTA-grown seafood products.
This is the most hopeful development yet in the morass of need for food and marine environmental degradation that has been large scale salmon farming. the one certain things is that no respectable academic insititution – as, eminently, is SAMS – is going to deliver anything other than environmental responsibility to its own doorstep.
We note that the highly endangered common seal is a part of the marine environmental cluster around salmon farming and hope that this research will include work on the universal deterrence of marine predators without the easy resort to the gun which Marine Scotland has, astonishingly, legalised and without protection for lactating seals.
Note: The photograph above is of a salmon farm in Finland and is by Plenz reproduced here under the Creative Commons licence.