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ECOAQUA Report Summary

Project ID: 621341
Funded under: FP7-REGPOT
Country: Spain

Periodic Report Summary 2 - ECOAQUA (Research and Technology to enhance excellence in Aquaculture development under an Ecosystem approach)

Project Context and Objectives:
One of the pillars of the EU's Blue Growth Strategy is the Aquaculture Production Sector. European aquaculture offers good quality products, respecting strict environmental sustainability, animal health and consumer protection standards. The demand of the EU seafood market is currently supplied for 25% from EU fisheries, 65% from imports and only 10% from EU aquaculture. The sustainable development of Aquaculture can contribute to the Europe 2020 Strategy. Current EU consumption produced internally through aquaculture would help create between 3,000 and 4,000 full-time jobs. These figures confirms that the aquaculture sector has the potential to boost growth and jobs in the EU.
The EcoAqua project, framed in the EU ERA-Chair Program, will improve the performance of the Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) in competitive research fields of Sustainable Aquaculture and participate to an Ecosystem-based approach for the management of the marine environment. The incorporation of new and young talents in an institution provides multiple benefits, such as:
• Set up of innovative research programs providing a favourable environment for novel ideas.
• Promote the visibility of the ULPGC at the regional, national and international level.
• Facilitate collaborative research by pooling of resources, such as research expertise, ideas, funds and research materials.
• Increased dissemination of its research potential and innovation.
• Expansion of its ties with the industrial sector and help focus mid- to long-term research, in terms of societal benefits and its economic impact.

Ecoaqua Main Objective: To integrate outstanding researchers in the ULPGC to foster research
excellence in Sustainable Aquaculture under a Ecosystem Approach strengthening the S&T research potential and capacities of ULPGC, underpinning its better integration into the ERA.
Especific Objectives:
• Consolidate existing research potential by means of the integration of an outstanding researcher and its team members.
• Develop the next generation of sustainable aquaculture research in Europe marine waters
• Initiate innovative approaches for sustainable aquaculture development.
• Develop sustainable aquaculture science and technology (strengthen infrastructures and go beyond current research).
• Capacity building inside the ERA and towards the Outermost Regions (ORs).
• Disseminate & extend knowledge to diverse Economic and Social Sectors.
• Increase public awareness of Aquaculture benefits under an Ecosystem Approach.

Ecoaqua Main Output: The EcoAqua Project will conduct an annual Summer Course on “Ecosystems-based Approach for the Sustainable Development of Aquaculture” to train and exchange information among ERA members (including ORs and Overseas Countries and Territories – OCTs) on current issues. In the second year will organize an International Workshop as discussion forum for the application of an Ecosystem-based approach as well as an International Conference on “Challenges in the Environmental Management of Coastal and Marine Areas”. The third year, an International Conference on “Marine Spatial Planning, Sustainable Growth and Biodiversity Conservation in Island Systems” will be organized with the participation of relevant actors from EU (such as DG Mare/DG RTD) and elsewhere (e.g. FAO, UN Barbados Program of Action, IUCN ...). Another networking activity of EcoAqua will be building up the Sustainable Aquaculture Technological Platform among concerned stakeholders in ORs and OCTs as well as the Aquaculture Cluster within the ULPGC, as strategic tools for economic development of coastal areas. The research activities of the EcoAqua Research team will contribute to innovative aquaculture procedures (such as Integrated Multitrophic Aquaculture- IMTA, Marine Spatial Planning, Alternative Ingredients & Feeds or other emerging issues) to improve European seafood production within the Ecosystem-base approach. At the same time, the EcoAqua deliverables will increase public awareness on sustainable issues related to the European aquaculture sector.
After the 5 years implementation of the EcoAqua Project, the ULPGC will push up the boundaries of its extant research lines, have an enhanced research capacities on aquaculture and its environmental interactions, through its University Research Institute in Sustainable Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (IU-ECOAQUA with a lifespan beyond the Ecoaqua Project) and enlarged International Networks. At the same time, the research staff of the ULPGC will play an active role in the development of the European Blue Economy, contributing to Outermost Regional Sustainable Developments.

Project Results:
Since May 1st 2014 - the oficial start day of Ecoaqua Project - the staff of the ULPGC associated initiated the mainstream actions. One of them was to coordinate with the University Rectorate the implementation measures and management structure during it 5 years life-span. A subsequently action was to contact the stakeholders related to sustainability, environment and aquaculture issues, such as diverse Canary Islands Regional Governmental Agencies, local SMEs and NGOs as well as the FEAP and the IUCN. The kick-off meeting was held in June 13th 2014 in the ULPGC, when the ERA-Chair Programm and the Ecoaqua Project were officially presented to the public. During that event, the President of the Canarian Regional Government acknowledged that the Ecoaqua objectives match the Canary Islands Regional Government Smart Specialization Strategy and the 2020 Canarian Growth Strategy contributing to the diversification of the economic activities in the región.
The selection of the ERA-Chair and ERA-Chair Research Team, the main tasks have been fully completed inside the WP2. Further details are found in the associated Deliverable: D2.1 Ecoaqua ERA-Chair and ERA-Chair Research Team Research Selection Process.
The tasks included in WP3 were also acomplished with the acquisition of new and complementary research equipment (Deep diving apparatus, currentmeter) and update of existing aquaculture research infrastructures through modification and automatization of water supply and macroalgal biomass harvesting.
In WP4 it is worthly to mention the official approval in February 2016 by the Canary Islands Regional Government of the University Research Institute on Sustainable Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (IU-ECOAQUA) inside the structure of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The creation of this Institute together with the integration of the Era Chair and researchers within the existing research groups contributed to reach excellence and promote competitiveness in thematic areas relevant to Aquaculture Sustainable Development, as well as S&T management. The developed research lines and activities focus on different subjects necessary to the development of a sustainable aquaculture and marine ecosystem conservation.

The focuses of the research lines are:

1. Marine/Maritime spatial planning (MSP), policy applied to marine & coastal areas, marine environmental management and related support of the data infrastructures.

The goal behind the activities is to understand and properly adopt the whole process from metadata development, data harmonization and finally providing the network services for spatial data discovery, view and download.

2. Techniques and procedures for quantification of environmental and ecological services and improved environmental management.
The aim of the developed activities is to foster High Qualified Research in deep sensitive and increase knowledge in Deep Diving and Acoustic Techniques for marine seabed characterization.

3. Applied genetics in aquaculture to improve production, health and animal welfare.
This line of research aims at developing genetic improvement programs in marine species (fish, crustacean and mollusc) for economical interesting traits like growth, performance, fish and meat quality, by implementing different tools.

4. Improvement of animal performance through improved nutrition over the full life cycle
The research in this area focuses on:
The monitoring of sexually maturity of various fish species and of the quality of their spawn according to nutrition in order to obtain viable eggs and improve larval quality. Moreover the effect of the diet on larvae and juvenile growth performance, body composition and quality was also investigated

5. Improving resource utilisation efficiency by means of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture
This research line aims at implementing Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture production (IMTA), as an efficient method for the purification of effluents and a source of algal biomass of high protein content to be used as feeding source.

The development of these research activities has also been made possible by providing the researchers access to cutting edge technology S&T infrastructures.

In WP5 some activities were developed by EcoAqua members to enhance networking at international and regional levels, such as: “First Korean – Spain Ocean Forum” held in Gran Canaria, July 2014; Workshop on the Identification of Principal Challenges facing the Development of Sustainable Aquaculture in Ors and OCTs, held in the Marine Scientific and Technological Park of the Univ. of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria between 6-9 July 2015; 2015 EcoAqua Summer School: Advances in Sustainable Aquaculture Procedures, held in the Marine Scientific and Technological Park of the Univ. of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria between 26-29th October 2015; EMODnet-INSPIRE Workshop, held in Brussels between 11-12 December 2015; Activation of the Canarian Coastal Management Forum – CANACOSTA, held in the Marine Scientific and Technological Park of the Univ. of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria 29 January 2016; International Conference Towards a Sustainable Blue Economy: Production, Strategies and Policies, organized by KUFOS in Kochi (Kerala), India between 4-6 February 2016; BiodivERsA3 Workshop, held in Brussels between 4-5 April 2016; Conference / Debate Boosting Biodiversity Research Cooperation. A NetBiome Roadmap for European (sub)Tropical Overseas, held in the European Parliament, Brussels and organized by the Climate Change, Biodiversity and sustainable Development EP Intergroup on 6th April 2016.

Several dissemination actios were perfomed, as stated in WP6. In one hand, the dedicated webpage: was defined and hosted inside the ULPGC server, subsequently, improved adding fresh information related to Project structure, objectives and up-coming news related to sustainable development of aquaculture and marine conservation issues. In the other hand, some dissemination actions done during the last 24 months were: the “European Night of Researchers” September 2014 in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria; the “Climate Change and Biodiversity in Outermost Regions and Territories” held in Guadeloupe Island, with a dedicated Workshop on Blue/Green Economy, October 2014; Open Day: World Aquaculture Day, Gran Canaria, November 2014; the European Researchers Night, held in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria September 2015; Open Day: World Aquaculture Day held in the Marine Scientific and Technological Park of the Univ. of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in 30 November 2015; the International Fair of the Sea (FIMAR), held in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria between 6-8 May 2016.

A keystone event organized by EcoAqua was the International Conference: Challenges in the environmental management of coastal and marine areas (CECOMA 2016), held in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria between 25-29 January 2016 with participants not only from ORs and OCTs, but also from continental Europe and Canada. The CECOMA recommendations were released at the end of the Conference, distributed among stakeholders and regional / island government authorities, and it is available in the EcoAqua website (
Besides, a one-page flyer with the mainstream characteristics of the Ecoaqua Project have been produced as well as one brochure describing the aims of the Ecoaqua Technological Platform.

Potential Impact:
In the context of the EcoAqua Project, novel and specific research capabilities will be added, complementing those already existing in the ULPGC GIA and BIOCON Research Groups, facilitating the access to world class knowledge on Sustainable Aquaculture and Marine Biodiversity Conservation as well as promoting the ULPGC’s integration into the ERA.
At the end of the project, the University Institute of Sustainable Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems of the ULPGC (IU-ECOAQUA) will have close and stable collaborations with outstanding research organizations in continental Europe, other Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries and Territories. Moreover, its Strategic Plan, will enable the ULPGC to further develop its S&T potentials in forthcoming European funding schemes.

The EcoAqua project’s activities will produce the following main results:
✓ Increase research excellence in marine sciences: aquaculture and marine conservation, raising the capabilities of qualified human resources of the ULPGC and fostering a better integration in ERA.
✓ Acquire new research tools and methods to promote sustainable aquaculture and enhance the knowledge of wild marine ecosystems, its conservation and evolution.
✓ Improve good practice and technology transfer to regional authorities and coastal stakeholders, promoting innovative governance and management tools for an ecosystem-based approach of EU aquaculture.
✓ Increase private R&D activities in the ERA, approaching aquaculture production to the necessities of the civil society.
✓ Create the University Research Institute in Sustainable Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (IU-ECOAQUA) as well as its Strategic and Sustainability Plans beyond EcoAqua lifetime, with expanded research capacities towards the ERA.
✓ Provide results for use by researchers and coastal stakeholders including decision makers, SMEs, and NGOs, to ensure the sustainable management of aquaculture in ORs within their specificities and originality.
✓ Become a European focal point for tropical and subtropical sustainable aquaculture, with expertise on Aquaculture Development under an ecosystem approach and the associated management issues in ORs and other coastal areas.
✓ Produce Guidelines to support and foster Sustainable Aquaculture Development under a Ecosystem Approach, increasing the education level and public awareness of local populations about sustainable marine issues.

The major impacts expected from the EcoAqua Project, regarding its contribution to regional economic and social development are the following:
➢ Better social understanding of sustainable aquaculture practices, enhancing the benefits of a respectful development with the environment, implemented with an Ecosystem-based approach;
➢ Social awareness of the impact of environmental (climate change) and human induced changes (fisheries, aquaculture, coastal development, tourism, ...) in marine biodiversity and related economic sectors in the Canary Islands and other Outermost Regions;
➢ Explore and identify the economic and scientific potentials of subtropical marine life, opening new resources largely untapped by European SMEs;
➢ Scientific foundation for feasible, sustainable management measures;
➢ Supporting policies and possible related technologies to be used by SMEs in the Canary Islands and other coastal areas of ORs and OCTs;
➢ Contributing to ICZM and sustainable management of marine ecosystems and economic activities in ORs and OCTs.

During the first 24 months of the Ecoaqua Project, new contacts with scientific organizations at international and national levels have been established (both inside ERA and elsewhere), with the aim to promote future joint research (H2020 calls) / academic actions (Master / Doctorate courses). The advice of the ERA-Chair have been crucial for these developments. Additionally, public participation and enriching discussions with representatives of SMEs and NOGs have also also contributed to better shape Ecoaqua outputs.

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