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Is Offshore Aquaculture The Future?

Economics +1 more

CROATIA - Lack of space to develop mariculture appeared to be a significant problem for attendees of the third Offshore Mariculture 2010 technical conference, which was held in Croatia last week.

The conference, which was opened by the Croatian Director of Fisheries Mrs Neda Skakelja, had an audience of more than 100 delegates representing 28 countries.

Hayri Deniz, Director of Mariculture, Aquaculture Department, from Turkey’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA), highlighted in his presentation – fish farming all over the world now conflicts with many other industries, most notably tourism and energy production as well as a growing number of marine protected areas (MPAs).

It was as a result of such conflicts that MARA introduced its new environmental law in Turkey, which has moved inshore farms to offshore sites. It has also created a number of projects aimed at developing the sector in a sustainable manner.

Conference chairman Arne Fredheim, a director of the Centre for Research-based Innovation in Aquaculture Technology and Research (Create), quoted UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) fisheries and consumption statistics and highlighted the lucrative opportunities presented to forward thinking producers due to static wild capture landings.

“Aquaculture needs to supply the additional demand for seafood. And it will need to come from marine farming conducted further offshore,” said Mr Fredheim.

Fish farming output, which has grown consistently by 10 per cent each year for the past 20 years, is expected to reach close to 120 million tonnes by 2020, said Prof Branko Glamuzina, who teaches aquaculture at the University of Dubrovnik.

"Aquaculture is the fastest growing agro-business," Prof Glamuzina said. "It represents the only serious means of providing enough seafood for the ever growing population."

Taking into account the expected increase of the world’s population, it is widely believed food production will need to be doubled by 2030, commented Torgeir Edvardsen of the European Aquaculture Technology and Innovation Platform (EATiP). “As a result, we'll have to farm the sea much more efficiently than we've done up until now.”

The cost of creating offshore farm sites was debated at length at Offshore Mariculture. Without doubt this form of production does incur additional costs, but on the other hand a number of conference attendees spoke about faster growing times, improved product quality, less environmental impacts and reduced risk of disease outbreaks.

There were also a number of presentations on the potential benefits and cost-efficiencies of working with other marine space users. Prof Bela Buck of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research delivered a presentation on how shellfish aquaculture could site with offshore wind farms. Similarly, Artur Simoes, project manager with Seaweed Energy Solutions, talked about creating synergies with the offshore cultivation of seaweed, which would then be used to provide a sustainable supply of biofuels.

EATiP’s Mr Edvardsen was delighted with the conference programme. He assured delegates that the offshore farming industry has a bright future producing high quality products.

“The main challenge will be the time it takes to implement these and other innovations and new initiatives,” he said.