A new research paper about the development of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture in Europe was published last April by the Aquaculture Environment Interaction Journal. The paper was written by IDREEM coordinator Dr. Adam Hughes and Prof. Kenneth Black, (Scottish Association for Marine Science) and analyzes the trade-offs in implementing IMTA systems in Europe, in contrast with established IMTA systems in the wider Asian context.
There has been significant interest in the development of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture in Europe. Much of this interest has come from academia and regulators, and while elements within the European aquaculture industry have expressed an interest, to date, the adoption of the concept has been limited.
There is a number of potential drivers for the adoption of an IMTA system from the perspective of a European fish-farm, such as:
- increased productivity;
- reduced environmental impact;
- increased space requirement;
- increased social licence;
- increased complexity;
- increased profitability.
In order to understand why there has been limited uptake of IMTA in Europe, it is necessary to look at the issue in terms of trade-offs offs between the benefits and costs of adopting IMTA at the level of an existing fin-fish farmer or company. If IMTA is to be adopted by an individual farmer, the trade-offs will have to provide a net benefit.
The authors find that to date the balance of trade-offs is currently not sufficiently positive to motivate the large-scale uptake of IMTA in Europe. Nevertheless, by better understanding the trade-offs for the individual, it is possible to understand the conditions that will promote the development of IMTA in Europe. There are few regulatory drivers in Europe to support the adoption of IMTA at the level of an individual or a company. There is also a need to develop economically and technically viable benthic IMTA systems which will ameliorate the seabed impact of fin-fish culture, since fish farms in Europe are more regulated based on their benthic impact, rather than on their impact on the water column. A better financial case is also needed for the adoption of IMTA by European fish-farmers, based on empirical evidence. This, combined with an increased social licence for companies practicing IMTA, that translates into a greater licenced area, would significantly facilitate the development of IMTA in Europe.