BACKGROUND AND RATIONALE
At the European level, the aquaculture sector, and in particular mariculture, is growing strongly and more than 50% of the products of aquatic origin consumed by the world population are estimated to derive from aquaculture. According to the World Bank’s forecast scenarios based on projections of consumption data and population growth, a request for 261 million tons of aquatic products is expected in 2030, of which over 62% will have to be secured with aquaculture products. To meet the demand, aquaculture will have to triple its production.
Although environmental impacts tend to be lower than fisheries with less exploitation of natural fish stocks, they are not negligible.
The water and waste of mariculture plants are a problem for the surrounding ecosystem as they cannot be treated and recycled as well as those on the ground being located in cages at sea. In most fish farming systems, metabolic by-products, food residues, faecal material and residues of prophylactic and therapeutic compounds are discharged directly into the sea, without treatment, thus leading to deterioration of water quality and the appearance of diseases in bred species as well as possible infections in humans. The greatest risks derive in particular from the release of xenobiotics but also from nitrogen and phosphorus that cause problems of eutrophication and pathogens like bacteria, viruses and protozoa. The consequences of organic enrichment are evident not only in the water column but also in the sediments that in normal condition can host a great biodiversity.
These negative environmental impacts are particularly evident in plants located near the coast, in confined area where the diluting effect of the marine circulations is less effective.
The expected development of the aquaculture sector, in the coming years, in Europe, will therefore have to provide for the development of systems to mitigate / reduce the environmental impacts of its activities, aimed to respect both the interests of market and the community legislation, with particular reference to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The latter rule requires the member states of the EC to achieve the ecological status of “good” (Good Environmental Status – GES) for their marine waters by 2020.
The use of specific “integrated multi-trophic aquaculture systems” (Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture – IMTA), contextualized at the local level, could represent the main instrument to harmonize the development of this growing industrial sector with the achievement of the environmental quality objectives defined by the community policies.
In recent years, a considerable amount of research has been focused on the creation of “Integrated Multi-trophic Aquaculture Systems” (IMTA), a technique that, as reported in the recent EC report “Science for Environment Policy.” FUTURE BRIEF: Sustainable Aquaculture “(2015), is one of the main tools for harmonizing the growth of the growing aquaculture sector, with the achievement of the environmental quality objectives defined by the EC. 267/5000.
To date, there are some plants in Europe that use this system at productive level, even if with several problems not yet resolved. However, most are located offshore with considerable depth under the breeding cages.
In the present project we want to demonstrate that IMTA technology can be applied in coastal areas confined to shallow depths and much more vulnerable to the impact of aquaculture (increase in sedimentation rate, increase in nutrient concentration, presence of pollutants).
The proposed system provides for the first time at European level the use, in a combined way, of bioremediation organisms such as POLYCHAETES and PORIFERA in addition to the most commonly used MUSSELS and MACROALGAE, having a high tolerance to environmental stress conditions and better performances as bioremediators as already demonstrated during previous scientific researches.
OBJECTIVES AND EXPECTED RESULTS
-Development of an integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) system at the European level for the mitigation of negative environmental impacts of mariculture plants in a confined marine environment, with the use of a new set of bioremediator organisms whose action is more effective than the use of molluscs only.
Improvement of the quality of sediment and waters surrounding the breeding and additional economic benefits for the company linked to the diversification of production with the opening to new markets in relation to the marketing of non-edible biomasses that represent a by product with high commercial value. At each production cycle, in addition to breeding fish species and mussels, it is expected to collect large quantities of polychaetes sponges and macroalgae for the production of: baits, ornamental invertebrate, feed for fish species, fertilizers and raw material for the extraction of bioactive compounds useful in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
Better breeding performance with an increase in the quality of fish biomass produced within the system
Entry of the new IMTA system into the market and development of a virtuous circle that encourages sustainable mariculture at the European level with relapses not only in the specific aquaculture field but also in the light of a “farm-to-table” employment of the produced biomass (edible or not), its biotechnological exploitation and an aquaculture ecofriendly management.
Development of a management plan by the pilot company aimed at supporting its commercial activities
Awareness-raising of the community on the eco-compatible management of aquaculture in Europe and dissemination of the results of the methodologies developed for replicability at local and European level within a specific communication and networking plan. With these actions, policy and regulatory choices and specific financing can also be encouraged.
REMEDIA sets among its objectives the development of technological innovations for the reduction of the environmental impacts of mariculture plants. The innovativeness at European level is given by the use of a new set of biorimediator organisms that have shown to have a bioremediation effect of the marine environment greater than the commonly used organisms.
Polychaete and sponges are more efficient than mussels in removing suspended waste material. Based on data acquired in previous experiences Co-culture with Porifera produces a further decrease in bacterial concentration. Finally, in the case of macroalgae, a removal of the nitrogen and phosphorus load can be achieved. In the short / medium term, therefore, the system is expected to determine an environmental bioremediation. The improvement of the environment will be positively reflected on the quality of edible biomass produced, evaluated according to the European Commission and FAO.
REMEDIA also aims to promote the entry of these new technologies into the European market.
For this purpose: a) obtained biomass (edible and not) will be exploited / commercialized, b) a managerial plan will be drawn up by the company aimed at greater sustainability of its activities, and which could be borrowed in other European contexts, c) an exchange between the scientific community and stakeholders (entrepreneurs in the mariculture sector, etc.) will be open encouraging the signing of agreements for the replicability-transferability-use of the project results at European level.
Marginally, the topic will also be addressed: Marine and coastal management – marine litter or microbial contaminants – Projects aiming at reducing marine litter and microbial contaminants, addressing the sources of marine litter and microbial contaminants (N. 2). The bioremediation technologies developed in REMEDIA (IMTA system with polychaetes, porifera, mussels and macroalgae) will in fact lead to the reduction of marine pollution (in particular microbiological contamination) due to mariculture plants, even in confined areas subject to anthropic stress. In the short / medium term a bioremediation of the waters surrounding the plant is expected, as well as of the sediments compared to the starting phase of the project.
REMEDIA represents the transition from the research to the industrial phase and is the basis of a process that goes from producers to the industry of processing and use of products. The originality lies in the marketing (other than mussels) of high quality non-edible biomass. In Europe, the entire bioeconomy field produces hundreds of billions of euros and millions of employees and the proposed use of non-edible biomass can therefore satisfy the interest of a growing market sector. Considering that the non-edible biomasses are a by-product of bioremediation that do not involve additional costs, direct sales in the company could bring high sources of income, in line with the themes of BLUE GROWTH.