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Content archived on 2024-05-29

Ecosystem Approach for Sustainable Aquaculture

Final Report Summary - ECASA (Ecosystem approach for sustainable aquaculture)

The ECASA project proposed an ecosystem approach with the aim to achieve a sustainable European aquaculture industry. In this context the following three objectives were identified:

% 1. to define quantitative and qualitative indicators of the effects of aquaculture on the environment and vice versa and to assess their applicability
2. to develop operational tools, including models, in order to establish and describe the relationship between environmental conditions and aquaculture activities over a range of ecosystems and production systems
3. to develop effective environmental impact assessment (EIA) and site selection methods for coastal area management.

The successful accomplishment of these goals was anticipated to facilitate the effective EIA of aquaculture activities and assist the selection of suitable aquaculture sites. The innovative project toolbox, with its suite of environmental indicators and predictive models, would contribute to the assessment of marine sites for aquaculture activities and, subsequently, provide a consistent framework for the application of EIAs that would result in coherent and relevant environmental statements.

Firstly, the most relevant indicators of aquaculture and ecosystem interactions were highlighted and the principal driving forces of ecosystem changes were identified and quantified. Appropriate environmental indicators were subsequently developed and a review on the methodologies for evaluating the economic costs imposed on aquaculture by anthropogenic and natural environmental pressures was provided. The theory for indicators and models in relation to ECASA’s objectives was also established, in order to develop a template for model description, select adequate modelling techniques and schematise the project toolbox. The latter provided user friendly information on environmental indicators, models and impact assessment procedures that could be used in evaluating the environmental impacts of aquaculture.

The project findings and assumptions were implemented in selected case study areas, which were representative of characteristic European aquaculture schemes. A book of protocols, along with various study site reports, was developed during this stage. It was anticipated that, through focussing on indicators, models and the EIA process, optimal aquaculture sites would be selected, resulting in minimal ecosystem impacts and sustainable development of the industry. The holistic consideration of marine ecosystems was identified as being critical for this purpose, while a risk-based approach should be used to ensure that the most sensitive aspects would be taken into account in the greatest possible detail.

The developed internet toolbox was planned to be available for at least two years beyond the project lifetime. Based on its success among stakeholders a possible extension of its lifetime, combined with an expansion of its contents, might be considered by the project team. The impact of ECASA on the aquaculture sector was anticipated to be significant; nevertheless, since a similar initiative had never been previously undertaken, the magnitude of its effects could not be predicted in detail by the time of the project completion.