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ECOAQUA Report Summary

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

Periodic Report Summary 3 - 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 is 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.

The specific Objectives of the EcoAqua project include:
• 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 European marine waters
• Initiate innovative approaches for sustainable aquaculture development.
• Develop sustainable aquaculture science and technology
• 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 Outputs include: The recruitment of experienced scientific personnel to integrate the teams of existing research groups. The improvement of the Scientific and Technological Equipment of the existing marine facilities of the ULPGC in the Marine Research and Technological Park and the optimization of their uses. The development of new marine research themes, new methodological
approaches and new technical developments to reach research excellence. Innovative aquaculture procedures contemplated to improve European seafood production within the Ecosystem-base approach include Integrated Multitrophic Aquaculture- IMTA, Marine Spatial Planning, Environmental services, genetics and Alternative Ingredients & Feeds. The enhancement the scientific and technological exchange (know-how) of the ULPGC through the diffusion of the knowledge at the University level and at the regional and European level are also considered to increase public awareness on sustainable issues related to the European aquaculture sector. This exchange will be partly performed through the conduction of various events such as:
- 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.
- International Workshop as discussion forum for the application of an Ecosystem-based approach
- International Conference on “Challenges in the Environmental Management of Coastal and Marine Areas”.
- International Conference on “Marine Spatial Planning, Sustainable Growth and Biodiversity Conservation in Island Systems”
Another networking activity of EcoAqua consist in the set up of the Sustainable Aquaculture Technological Platform among concerned stakeholders in ORs and OCTs as strategic tools for economic development of coastal areas. The research activities of the EcoAqua Research team will contribute to 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 the 1st of May - official start day of Ecoaqua Project - the staff of the ULPGC initiated the mainstream actions for a successful start of project. One of them was to coordinate with the University Rectorate the implementation measures and management structure during it 5 years life-span. A subsequent action was to contact the stakeholders related to sustainability, environment and aquaculture issues, from diverse Regional Governmental Agencies, SMEs and NGOs together with members of international organization such as FAO, FEAP and the IUCN to ensure the participative collaboration to the project activities. The kick-off meeting was held 13th of June 2014 at the ULPGC, when the ERA-Chair Program 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, took place within the activities planned in WP2 and were fully completed according to Open recruitment policy and in compliance with the ERA recruitment procedures. Further details about recruitment are described in the associated Deliverable: D2.1 Ecoaqua ERA-Chair and ERA-Chair Research Team Research Selection Process.
The tasks included in WP3 were also accomplished 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. Control of the reproductive cycle of fish species of economic importance
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.

5. Improvement of animal performance through improved nutrition over the full life cycle

The research in this area focuses on:
The monitoring of the diet effects on larvae and juvenile growth performance, body composition and quality of the produced species.

6. 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 through the organization of workshops and annual summer schools on “Ecosystems-based Approach for the Sustainable Development of Aquaculture” and the attendance to international conferences and seminars. The description of this different events and of the information exchanged are described in details in the EcoAqua periodic reports

Several dissemination actions were performed, as stated in WP6. On 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. On the other hand, some dissemination actions done since the beginning of the project such as: “European Night of Researchers”; Open Day: World Aquaculture Day, every November in Gran Canaria, the International Fair of the Sea (FIMAR), held in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria during May every year

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 years 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 NGOs have also contributed to better shape Ecoaqua outputs.

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