Aquaculture of Mediterranean species such as sea bass and sea bream already makes a significant contribution to local and national economies (current annual value: 400 million ECU), but faces a number of problems that hinder expansion and impair the ability of European fish farmers to compete effectively with other producers. These problems include high production costs due to inefficient feeding in farmed fish and legitimate public concern about the effects of fish farming on the local environment and the welfare of farmed fish. The aim of these projects is to adapt new technologies that have solved similar problems in the salmon aquaculture industry (in particular, the new generation of "smart" feeders that deliver food only when the fish are motivated to eat) for use in the Mediterranean culture of sea bass and bream. The project will generate information on natural appetite rhythms of these species, on the basis of which optimal feed management strategies will be developed.
The project is low risk and involves a development period during which 3 smart feeding systems for salmonid fishes will be reprogrammed for use on bass and bream, followed by an experimental investigation (on commercial sites over one production cycle) of the effects of these systems on production, on fish welfare and on the local environment. Findings will be publicised by "roadshow" workshops, by information leaflets and by training sessions for potential users.
The project, which conforms to several priority areas in the Agriculture & Fisheries Programme, brings together SMEs from two Less Favoured Regions involved in bass and bream farming, who recognise the need for new feed management technologies (partners A2 & A4), with SMEs involved in the development and marketing of smart feeding systems (partners A1, A3 & A5), who wish to exploit the markets offered by new aquaculture species. The RTD team consists of scientists with ideally complementary expertise in the analysis and control of feeding pattems in fish (partners C2 & C3), in the welfare of farmed fish (partner C1) and in the environmental impact of cage aquaculture (partner C4). The high level of technology transfer that this cooperative programme offers will allow feed management strategies to be developed for Mediterranean species that will potentially cut production costs and promote fish welfare, while minimising environmental disruption.