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New Research Helping EU Aquaculture Become More Competitive

13 October 2014

EU - In order to help EU aquaculture become more competitive, sustainable and efficient, an EU-funded project is connecting the expertise of aquaculture scientists from across Europe.

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.

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

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.

European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: “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.”

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