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Making Mediterranean Aquaculture More Sustainable

MEDITERRANEAN - Producing sea shells and algae alongside fish could provide both an environmentally friendly and economically viable solution to make Mediterranean aquaculture sustainable.

Sea bass or sea bream, by far the most consumed fish species around the Mediterranean area, increasingly originate from aquaculture. The sector is expected to double between 2010 and 2030, thus becoming prime competitor to mass tourism for available coastal surfaces. Recently, however, the green credentials of aquaculture have been called into question.

The problem is that traditional aquaculture generates tremendous amount of environmental waste from the fatty acid and protein-rich feed released through an open water circulation system. The intake of this aliment by farm fish is no more than 30 per cent. The rest is wasted, Jean-Paul Blancheton, a researcher at Ifremer research station in Palavas, France, tells youris.com. Another consequence of such practice is that parasites from cultured fish and antibiotics are being released in the environment.

Besides, economic concerns have added to environmental ones. Feeds limited availabilityit is made of fish too small to be soldand corresponding cost pressure have impacted the sector, putting its sustainability into question.

Mr Blancheton expects part of the solution could come from adopting a concerted approach in research and development policies for the field. Speaking as the scientific coordinator of an EU-funded project called Aquamed, he explains the projects approach: The rationale is finding ways to make Mediterranean aquaculture sustainable. Taking a first step towards this goal, the project is due to complete the mapping of aquaculture capabilities of each of the 16 countries located around the Mediterranean by June 2013.

Long term solutions may emerge from this pan-Mediterranean study. For now, there are already short-term remedies. A possible concrete solution to the sectors environmental problem is dubbed integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, according to Mr Blancheton. It involves combining complementary cultures. For instance, by adding large amounts of silica to the fish feed, will lead to the development of a broad variety of microscopic algae. These will, in turn, become fodder for molluscs such as oysters and mussels. Molluscs can thus be cultivated alongside fish, thanks to a closed water recirculation system. What's more, this recirculation does not allow fish pathogens from outside to enter the system, hence requiring little use of antibiotics, if any.

This solution is welcome by experts in the field. To become more sustainable, the Mediterranean area needs to establish several leading producers that use state-of-the-art technologies for land-based closed containment systems Steve Summerfelt, of theFreshwater Institute in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, USA tells youris.com.

Another possibility to remedy the feed waste issue is to produce macroscopic algae eating the wasted feed. These larger type of algae can find applications in cosmetics, biofuels and even be consumed as food, etc. [Learning] how to cultivate and eat different kinds of algae, as we do in Asian countries, could be one of the challenges of a sustainable aquaculture in the Mediterranean area, says Liu Yin, of the Institute of Oceanology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Qingdao, Shandong province, China.

To help the Mediterranean aquaculture, Latin fish lovers might have to slightly alter their diet.

Lucy Towers

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The growth story 
of Nireus, Greece

Like all Mediterranean producers, Nireus has a strong need to market their product as fresh, affordable and high quality fish, with traceability as an important asset. Building a stable future for the company on both technical and business knowledge, Nireus realizes that a healthy economy in aquaculture can only be built on healthy fish.

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