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Questioning the Direction of Fish and Aquaculture Research in Europe

NORWAY - Norwegian fish and aquaculture research centre Nofima is heading a European research project aimed at providing answers about whether fisheries and aquaculture research is on track.

The project, FEUFAR ("The Future of European Fisheries and Aquaculture Research"), will look at whether fisheries' scientists in Europe are carrying out the best and most useful research and whether they are discovering new things or following in old tracks.

"The reason this think tank was established was the EU Commission's requirement to ensure that fisheries and aquaculture research is managing to go in new directions," says Nofima Scientist Audun Iversen.

"Research needs to be innovative," he says.

"However, part of the challenge is that to a large extent research follows in the same track as that discovered earlier. Maybe there are developmental features that we miss."

Scientists will always want more research to be conducted in precisely their field. And it's not hard to point to knowledge requirements in one's own specialist field.

"But every so often we need to stop, look up and ask if we are researching the right things," says Iversen.

FEUFAR was established precisely to ensure research funds are being used in a future-oriented manner.

"What we are doing with people in the fishing industry, experts and scientists in several countries in Europe is to look at which trends will distinguish the development in fisheries and aquaculture," says Iversen. "We will create scenarios (futuristic images) to show what the industry may look like in 2020."

Scientists, industry and interest groups have made suggestions to FEUFAR about new priorities. The main task will be to find out what the biggest challenges will be 10-15 years into the future.

"The objective is to find out whether any of these challenges are such that we have to utilise our research funds differently," says Iversen. "Perhaps research expertise needs to be expanded in other areas, such as environment, health and sustainable management of fisheries."