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Content archived on 2024-05-29

Sustainable extensive and semi-intensive coastal aquaculture in Southern Europe

Final Report Summary - SEACASE (Sustainable extensive and semi-intensive coastal aquaculture in Southern Europe)

Extensive and semi-intensive aquaculture systems in Southern Europe exploit large areas and contribute significantly to fish and seafood production. However, they currently confront problems due to the expansion of other uses in coastal areas and the market competition that results in low product prices.

The SEACASE project aimed to develop effective tools to maintain the competitiveness, productivity, profitability and thus sustainability of such systems in Southern Europe. In addition, the proposed tools minimised the environmental impacts of the sector and improved the quality and public image of its products.

The project created a scientific network to support extensive and semi-intensive aquaculture in Southern Europe. Six independent case studies were examined, representing different production systems and geographical locations, to demonstrate the feasibility for productivity enhancement under sound environmental conditions. Similarities were apparent between different countries where comparable modern techniques were integrated by farmers for the production of shellfish and for fish and shrimp rearing. On the contrary, traditional practices displayed differences regarding the implemented technical protocols and water management schemes.

Moreover, potential technical improvements were evaluated as part of SEACASE. Innovative management practices and methods to ensure resources' conservation were developed, such as the proposal of eco-friendly diets, the optimisation of slaughter procedures and the identification of genes that conferred a higher adaptability to low winter temperature, allowing for the selection of the best performing strains in extensive aquaculture. Specific codes of conduct were also developed for each of the case studies after review of the national certification procedures. The codes served as a basis for the proposal of a joint European certification system.

Quality criteria, such as sanitary and nutritional quality, yields and body traits, colour, sensory quality and muscle structure were identified as potential markers to differentiate fish reared in different systems. Tendencies were therefore highlighted, even though the undertaken tests were not sufficient for generalisation of the findings. In addition, an artificial intelligence application was developed, based on innovative tools provided by molecular biology, in order to distinguish between fish juveniles reared in intensive and non-intensive systems through the observation of similarities to the wild phenotype.

Finally, a socioeconomic assessment was elaborated with two objectives, namely to identify the current status of applied systems from a technical and economic point of view and to assess the socioeconomic patrimonial value of aquaculture. The latter was evaluated through a patrimonial audit approach over the case study of integrated eel fisheries and oyster refinement.

Apart from the innovation-related activities that were accomplished, SEACASE created proposals for further research and development in various components of aquaculture. Suggestions for the support of environmentally sound practices and the preservation of resources were formulated. In addition, the increased application of traditional activities was identified as a tool to improve productivity rates. Several opportunities to exploit coastal areas were also defined so as to enhance locations' multi-functionality. Methodologies to promote the availability of healthy, safe and qualitative products and to improve the public opinion on the aquaculture industry were developed. Finally, the project formulated specific recommendations regarding the industry, the policy makers and the researchers, the protection of the environment and the social progress associated with aquaculture activities.