A team of EU-funded researchers from 10 countries has developed new recommendations, models and tools for the sustainable growth of European aquaculture. The project’s results will be used to inform decisions about future regulations and licensing.
© Trevor Telfer, 2009
Aquaculture is an area that could have significant economic value to Europe. The EU recognises the sectors value in its Blue Growth strategy which seeks to harness the untapped potential of the marine and maritime sectors for food production and jobs while focusing on environmental sustainability.
However, a lack of efficient and effective licensing and regulation is hampering the aquaculture sectors development. This situation is leading to missed opportunities for the production of seafood, much of which is currently imported. It also means that European producers are losing out on export opportunities. Over the years, fish farming has also had its fair share of bad press due to poor practices blamed for, among others, disease in fish stocks and pollution of the environment.
The EU-funded TAPAS project aims to change this by giving government regulators and policymakers the information and tools they need to establish robust, more efficient regulatory frameworks that can lead to the sectors growth and sustainable development. Project research embraced both the marine and freshwater environments.
We structured TAPAS to produce several key outputs, including policy recommendations, predictive environmental models and an aquaculture toolbox for decision-makers, says Trevor Telfer, project coordinator from the University of Stirling, United Kingdom. These outcomes are progressive within the project with each building from the other.
Guidance on licensing
The project began with a review of current legislation and licensing practices for aquaculture across Europe, which involved significant consultation with stakeholders. This led to the drafting of policy and licensing recommendations as well as guidance for governance covering all levels of the industry, from start-ups to well-established companies. The recommendations will be used primarily by government regulators charged with implementing efficient licensing rules.
TAPAS went on to develop predictive environmental models and automated monitoring and data-recording systems based on research across Europes aquaculture sector. These innovations have been designed to help implement the projects policy and licensing recommendations and will be of value to regulators as well as scientists and industry bodies.
The models and monitoring systems cover existing low-tech and high-tech aquaculture production systems. They could also help in the introduction of new systems that may have different regulatory requirements, such as integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA). In IMTA, by-products such as waste from one species are used as fertiliser or food for another.
The projects aquaculture toolbox provides a web-based decision-support framework which can assist in the development of less costly, more transparent and efficient licensing of aquaculture in Europe.
The toolbox uses relevant modelling and guidance outputs from the TAPAS project, but also provides links and guidance to enable use of relevant outcomes from other EU projects and sources, explains Telfer. The availability of the toolbox, its intuitive design and information will enable a better understanding of aquaculture regulation while also helping to improve the public perception of European aquaculture.
The TAPAS team is also undertaking training, dissemination and outreach activities with the aim of improving the image of European aquaculture and the uptake of the project results by regulators.