The plant is located on the south-west side of the Mar Grande of Ionian Sea, which is a semi-enclosed basin connected to the Gulf of Taranto. The area is affected by intense Mytilus galloprovincialis farming. The aquaculture plant “Maricoltura del Mar Grande (MMG)”, partner of the Remedia Life project covers a surface of 0.06 Km2 and is located in a semi-confined area of the Mar Grande, positioned at about 600 m away from the coast. It consists of 15 cages of 22 m each one, working at a depth ranging from 7 to 12 m and producing about 100 tons/year of European seabass Dicentrarchus labrax (Linnaeus, 1758) and sea bream Sparus aurata, Linnaeus, 1758.
After a preliminary study aimed at describing the environmental characteristics of the area by analyzing both the water column and the sediments, in accordance with the hydrodynamic regime, it was found that the wastewater released by the farm accumulated in an area that was the most impacted, it was therefore decided to choose this area to study the action of the organisms chosen as bioremediators in the new IMTA system. The system was designed around 6 breeding tanks with the installation of 3 long lines called LLA, LLB and LLC.
The fixed structures of the long lines have been hooked to dead bodies and kept on the sea surface by floating buoys. Every two buoys a chamber is formed in which the mobile structures with bioremediators are positioned. These are vertical collectors formed by vertical lines for the breeding of sponges and polychaetes and by nets for the breeding of mussels and the cultivation of algae, for the latter, however, the collectors are not hung vertically, but are arranged parallel to the surface.
Annelida Polychaeta: Sabella spallanzanii, Gmelin, 1805; Branchiomma luctuosum, Grube, 1870; B. boholense (Grube, 1878)
Porifera: Sarcotragus spinosulus (Schmidt, 1862). Aplysina aerophoba (Nardo, 1833), Geodia cydonium (Linnaeus, 1767), Hymeniacidon perlevis (Montagu, 1814) Ircinia variabilis (Schmidt, 1862)
Macroalgae : Chaetomorpha linum (Chlorophyta, Cladophorales) and Gracilaria bursa-pastoris (Rhodophyta, Gracilariales)
In March and July 2018, a preliminary study was carried out to describe the environmental characteristics of the site by analyzing both water column and sediment parameters. This survey allowed to identify the most impacted area where wastes released by the farm were accumulated, also in accordance with data collected on hydrodynamic regime. This area was chosen to study the action of the organisms proposed as bioremediators in the new IMTA system. For this purpose three long lines denominated LLA, LLB and LLC were installed around 6 fish cages representing the “Treatment” site, whileanother 6 fish cages were chosen as “Control” site.
The amelioration occurred around the fish cages was evaluated through an environmental survey performed comparing the state at the beginning of the project with that in the three years after the conversion of the plant into the IMTA system. The preliminary study had indicated how the particulate matter produced by the farm was conveyed by the currents towards an area of the plant where the long lines with the bioremediators were positioned. It is assumed that the particulate matter was intercepted by the bioremediators and transformed into biomass, with an estimated production of about 6 q of polychaete worms and 300 l of sponges. Furthermore, the long lines acted as a mechanical filter capable, according to the estimates made, of trapping around 600 kg of suspended particulate matter per year. Also macroalgae played a positive role in environmental remediation, using the nitrogen and phosphorus salts they have made it possible to obtain a huge production of algal biomass and at the same time a reduction in the TRIX index relating to the trophic state and water quality from an initial value of “moderate quality” to a value of “good quality” at the end of the project.
The positive results were evident just at one year following the installation of the long lines with bioremediators.
The results obtained from the comparison of the macrozoobenthic communities showed that, after only one year, the ecological quality status clearly improved in the site where the bioremediation system was placed. Both indices AMBI and M-AMBI showed a marked improvement in themost impacted area, while the control site remained almost unchanged. A similar trend was observed both from the analysis of the hard bottom macrozoobenthic community found under the fish cages and from the microbiological analysis. The microbiological parameters measured both in the water column and in the sediments, indicated that the filtering action by the selected organisms improved the trophic condition and the microbiological quality of the system.
Finally, the improvement due to the presence of bioremediation plant, has allowed an increase in fouling biodiversity on the structures of the fish cages. In the investigated area, the IMTA system created is therefore essential for safeguarding and restoring the coastal marine environment, bringing it back to a more natural condition.
Three breeding cycles have been realized, the first one lasted from the end of 2018 to the end of 2019, the next ones from 2019-2020 and from 2020-2021.
Every year the six fish cages where the experimentation took place produced around 500 tons of fishes. To this production the bioremediators biomass must be added. The results of the annual bioremediatory biomass obtained are detailed in the following table, where the mussel biomass includes the shell and that of the worms includes the tube.
The considerable mussels biomass obtained during the first cycle is a demonstration of how these organisms can grow close to the fish cages.
Exploitation of biomass produced
Exploitation of biomass produced
The tested IMTA system will be successful only if the companies have revenues from the exploitation of the produced biomasses. For this reason, the biomasses have been subjected to careful analysis to identify any accumulations of harmful substances. Obtained data indicate macroalgae as most free from pollutants organisms which therefore can be used both for human consumption as well as to produce feed for fish species and fertilizers. Among the farmed invertebrates, mussels are the “cleanest” ones, by contrast accumulations of some pollutants have been recorded in sponges and polychaetes. In the latter, accumulation involves especially the crown, therefore this part must be eliminated in the case of their use in animal feed.
The macroalgae are the organisms for which a market is already active in different fields, they are rich in omega lipids and have also further important characteristics including antibacterial and antioxidant activities. Even for sponges their exploitation is very profitable, they can be used as row material for the extraction of bioactive compounds, in aquariology or in marine restoration, while for polychaetes, a series of problems must be still solved. They were proposed in aquariology, as baits in sport fishing and as a protein base for the production of feed fish. All three hypotheses have been the subject of ongoing marketing research. Although the experimentation for their use as bait has given excellent results, several problems in still need to be solved especilaly in the packaging and preservation of the product.
Economic analysis and replicability
Economic analysis and replicability
The economic analysis, which will continue even after the end of the project, has highlighted the normal difficulties encountered even in mussel farming. The negativities mainly concern the cleaning of the collectors and processing of the biomasses, which leads towards the development of the simplest possible techniques, and which made us focus our attention also towards the production of energy from the produced biomasses (e.g. biofuels or biogas), moving towards an exploitation of each other encrusting organisms, especially as regards the collectors used for fouling and polychaetes.
International scientific networking and stakeholder engagement activities were carried out. Some Focus meeting aimed at analyze the use of the produced biomasses and their marketing were held, but also on the Legislation and administrative aspects of aquaculture in Italy and the project replicability in other aquaculture plants. These topics involved not only the international committee, but also externalstakeholders such as experts in the regulatory/administrative sector, government executives and privateentities. The main point that emerged is the need for regulatory aspects relating to the production and marketing of fodder and the production and marketing of biogas. At the same time, the collection of interviews with stakeholders for each category of use began. In order to identify the commercial potential of the project’s output, market research was also undertaken as part of the development process of the Management Plan for MMG.
Throughout the duration of the project, contacts and collaborations were built with numerous projects, including LIFE projects across Europe. The networking activity has developed at different levels: from the sharing of information and results to the exchange of experiences during seminars and conferences, to collaboration in communication and dissemination activities, up to the planning and implementation of common actions.
The guidelines that can be share in a European context have been completed. They include a review of the IMTA state of the art in Europe, with management reference points and is manly focused on the breeding and treatment of biomass obtained as a by-product. The document, presented during the Final Project Event, will be disseminated through the project communication channels
The drafting of the guidelines document saw the collaboration of some members of the international committee, with some of whom collaboration agreements started.
In particular, 4 voluntary agreements were made with plants coordinated by universities (University of Las Palmas in Tenerife; University of Crete – Heraklion, Greece, Aegen Sea; University of Haifa; Consorzio Gargano Pesca – Manfredonia, Foggia, Italy).
Furthermore, the actions for the continuation of the activities at the end of the project period (After-Life plan) were defined, both at the site where the project was carried out and at other sites, in particular, with plants located at the University of Las Palmas and at the Gargano Pesca Consortium, with which collaborations have already been started for the replicability of the project.
Dissemination and environmental education
Dissemination and environmental education activities
For the dissemination of the project, the website (http://www.remedialife.eu) was created including the description of the target bioremediator species, the objectives and the interventions carried out through the programmed actions, as well as the institutional documentation and photographic videos. A Facebook page and a Twitter page were also activated. In the web site are available the movies, the extensive photographic documentation, as well as the interviews that were carried out by local, regional and national TV and radio channels.
Ten illustrative panels were installed (5 containing the description of the project and 5 the results) and positioned in places of particular visibility: near the partners’ building involved in the project and during the public events.
Two face-to-face and 3 online focus groups during the COVID19 period were organized. Posters were created for each organized event. The material produced concerning the project communication activities can be consulted on the website.
In addition, information material was produced such as brochures, pins, folders and pens.
The press office sent the media over 25 press releases on the activities carried out (meetings, conferences, events for the public and for schools), published in the local press.
In addition to the generic public dissemination activities, numerous scientific papers have been published, most on international indexed journals, which research articles can be downloaded from the website.
The Environmental Education activities involved schools in the Lecce, Brindisi and Taranto areas where the seminars were completely free. In particular, two types of educational paths were created, one aimed at middle schools and one aimed at high school students with more than 2,000 students involved. The students observed and touched with their own hands some specimens of sponges used in the IMTA system and were able to take part in the role-playing game and propose their own ideas on the possible uses of the biomass produced by an aquaculture plant. The most debated topics concerned sustainable mariculture, environmental awareness actions aimed at citizens, policies for the protection and enhancement of local fish products and the development of experimental models of the “Blue economy”.
Connected to the activities were three editions of the REMEDIA ON THE BEACH event in which, in addition to illustrative seminars aimed at the general public, tastings of fish produced in the Remedia Life IMTA farm were organized compared with fish produced in traditional farms.
The quality of the product was confirmed in the “Remedia on the beach” events. In the latest 2022 edition, some seaweed-based recipes were also proposed.