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Spanish researchers are looking at different methods to establish aquaculture methods in the Bay of Biscay.

Growing demand in the international market has made the growing of bivalves (mussels, oysters, scallops and clams) a promising and profitable business activity, capable of generating employment as well as creating wealth in coastal communities. This is why the AZTI-Tecnalia technological centre is undertaking a number of scientific analyses on the technical and socioeconomic viability and on the markets, in order to evaluate the possibility of implementing efforts for the marine offshore market, as a means of diversification in fishing activities in the marine environment.

The species studied are, mainly, the mussel (Mytilus sp.) and the flat oyster (Ostrea sp.). Nevertheless, most emphasis was placed on the mussel, for its possibilities of short to medium term exploitation.

This principal aims of this project, within the remit of the New (2009-2013) Strategic Plan for Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Basque Government, are the differential and profitable production of marine species for food; the development of diversification activities for the sustainability of the local fisheries sector; and the creation of new products for the food industry.

The project concluded a first working phase where the aspects studied were fundamentally related to: the identification of longline fishing systems and technologies for aquaculture production, for their possible application in the Bay of Biscay; the preliminary evaluation of socioeconomic and technical implications and of the market derived from the putting into operation of these activities; the selection and characterisation of the bio-physical measures and suitable zones off the Basque coast for implementing longline systems; and, finally, the design of prototypes and technologies of production appropriate for using in the context of the oceanographic conditions of the Bay of Biscay.

The results of this project have shown that there exist opportunities for the construction, installation and exploitation of longline systems out at sea, offshore from the Basque Country coast. There are also technologies, components and commercial designs adaptable to the operational and environmental conditions that can be expected in the open sea off the coast of the Basque Country.

Also identified is a clear predisposition of the fishing fleet and businesses in the local sector to collaborate, participate and invest in generating activities related to aquaculture production and involving using longline systems. Specifically, market niches (local and international), production opportunities and interesting marketing formats have been detected for species suitable for harvesting, through longline systems in the open sea. Also identified are marine zones off the Basque coast, with conditions that guarantee the correct locating of longline systems in the open sea.

In 2011 and 2012, AZTI-Tecnalia will be undertaking a pilot trial for the production of bivalve molluscs in the open sea where the following will be validated: the prototypes of designed systems of engineering, the idealness of the selected zone, the yield in growth, the survival and nutritional property of the species cultivated, the quantification of the environmental and social impacts of the activity, as well as the financial and market viability of the planned activity.

Achieving these and other targets will reveal the real opportunities for transfer to the sector existing around this activity in the Basque Country.

July 2011

the Fish Site Editor

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