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EU Research Helps Fish Farmers Become More Competitive

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EU Research Helps Fish Farmers Become More Competitive

EU Research Helps Fish Farmers Become More Competitive
October 10
11:40 2014

Aquaculture holds the promise of reducing the need to catch wild fish. Global demand for fish is increasing, putting many species in danger from overfishing. Fish farming, or aquaculture, is taking some of the pressure off these stocks – half of the fish consumed globally is now produced at fish farms. However, more could be done to make Europe’s aquaculture industry, which employs some 80 000 people, more efficient. By producing more fish in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way, fish farms could further reduce the pressure on Europe’s wild fish stocks.

To help, the EU-funded project AQUAEXCEL is connecting aquaculture scientists from across Europe for research that fish farmers can use to boost their competitiveness – and the economies of coastal communities.

AquaTT, a Dublin-based SME, is one of 17 partners in this project. Its programme manager, Marieke Reuver, explains the role the company plays in the project and its importance for societies “AquaTT is the project’s communications and dissemination partner. As capture fisheries keep declining, aquaculture has become an increasingly important contributor to global food supply, food security and economic growth. In Ireland, for example, the value of seafood exports has dramatically increased and Irish aquaculture production volumes are projected to rise even further in the near future. AQUAEXCEL’s work is important because it provides essential benefits to improve aquaculture research in Europe. Not only is this important for the furthering of scientific excellence, but it has real knock-on effects for societies and local economies.”

European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn says: “The EU has long identified aquaculture research as key to the economic development of coastal and remote areas, as well as a way to improve quality, while respecting animal welfare and the environment. We continue to invest in this type of research and innovation in our new Horizon 2020 programme.

Coordinator of AQUAEXCEL Marc Vandeputte, a researcher in fish genetics at France’s Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA) says: “The project is developing new methods and tools for more cost-efficient and applicable research for the aquaculture industry.

AQUAEXCEL is providing researchers from the EU and associated countries with access to top-flight aquaculture research centres and resources across Europe – including test sites, genomics data banks and imaging systems. AQUAEXCEL is also working to bring the top scientists from EU countries and various countries together for joint projects — fostering excellent research.

For example some projects have tested the possibility of substituting fish meal and fish oil with alternative ingredients such as hazelnut oil, insect meal and microalgae. Another example: researchers in the project are studying how fish consume nutrients. They are seeking to better control the fat and texture of the meat as a way to boost quality. They also aim to reduce the inputs needed to farm fish and cut any pollution to the local environment.

AQUAEXCEL’s work includes harmonising and standardising research resources across Europe – such as by developing fish models and experimental methods to help scientists coordinate their research. The project is developing and using what scientists call ‘isogenic’ lines for salmon, carp, sea bass and trout. These genetically identical groups of a particular fish species make it easier for scientists to reproduce their experiments. Isogenic trout were produced at one of AQUAEXCEL’s experimental fish farms operated by INRA near Brest, France. Researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands are now using these isogenic fish to study metabolism.

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