An impetus for aquaculture in the Baltic Sea Region
17 Jul 2015

Contrary to global trends, aquaculture production around the Baltic Sea area has even declined during the last decade – despite a shortfall of global seafood supply. A noticeable impulse to reverse this trend without putting additional pressure on the environment of the Baltic Sea was given by the Aquabest project. The project proposed options to balance economical development with environmental considerations.

photo: Mika Remes (Aquabest project)

“If aquaculture production was regulated only by market demand, it would be much higher in the Baltic Sea Region”, said the Aquabest project’s coordinator Jouni Vielma of the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute at the final conference of the Aquabest project. As coordinator of the project he has been pushing for sustainable aquaculture development for the Baltic Sea Region for years.

Under-developed due to environmental concerns

Slow development of aquaculture in the Baltic Sea Region is neither due to a poor market situation nor to unfavourable natural conditions. The main obstacle has been environmental concerns. For example, producing fish feed often puts additional pressure on wild fish stocks. In many places in the world, water released from aqua farms leads to strong local eutrophication of rivers, lakes or coastal waters. Such environmental effects are not acceptable for the Baltic Sea as it already heavily impacted by a long lasting nutrient overload.

Novel technologies and governance promoted

But: Aquaculture can be done environmentally friendly and profitably – this was demonstrated by the Aquabest project. For example, an aquaculture system that recirculates water instead of releasing it to the environment was promoted: Guidelines on how to carry out feasibility studies for building recirculating aquaculture systems were developed, tested for example in Belarus and then published. Also, alternative, regional fish feed production was tested: Mussels grown in Sweden were processed into fish feed instead of catching wild fish.

Strong partnership leads to political impact

The project successfully linked applied science with business development and governance. This was possible due to a strong, well-balanced and committed partnership. For the political level, the major results were compiled in a set of recommendations as well as a code of conduct for Baltic Sea Region aquaculture. These were taken up both by HELCOM in the discussion of the upcoming recommendation on Baltic aquaculture and by the European Commission within the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. On the regional level, the positive impact was acknowledged, for example by Carina Aaltonen, Minister of the Environment at Åland: “Aquabest has been a promising platform for a fruitful dialogue on how a lucrative business can go hand in hand with environmental considerations”.

Results available in the output library

The code of conduct, the recommendations, the feasibility study guidelines and other outcomes of the Aquabest project can be found in the Baltic Sea Region Programme’s output library. Currently, more than 230 outputs from more than 60 projects from the funding period 2007-2013 can be found there.

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