A handbook for Sustainable Aquaculture
SustainAqua - http://www.sustainaqua.org
SustainAqua – “Integrated approach for a sustainable and healthy freshwater aquaculture” is a Collective Research project funded by the European Commission under the Sixth Framework Programme that started in September 2006 and will last 3 years. During this time the consortium of 23 partners from 12 different countries will carry out specific research, training and dissemination activities in the field of producing healthy and tasty freshwater fish and other economical valuable by-products mainly by optimising nutrient chains, water management and energy efficiency.
All over the world, aquaculture is developing rapidly, due to the combination of a strong increasing demand
for seafood products and depleted fish stocks in the world's oceans. To avoid the same mistakes of the
European agricultural and fisheries sector, aquaculture farmers need to address simultaneously the equally
and mutually important considerations of environmentally sound, economically viable and socially acceptable
development – that is the principles of sustainability – for the healthy development of the sector.
Ultimately, each aquaculture farmer, irrespective of whether farming fish in RAS or ponds, has to face the
same issues: how to utilise feed nutrients more efficiently to save feeding costs, achieve higher production
and have less nutrients in the effluent? How to improve wastewater treatment and decrease its discharges,
in order to reduce water pollution charges, due to the authorities? How to meet all legal requirements and
restrictions, demonstrate to consumers that the cultured products are of the highest quality, that they are
produced in environmentally friendly systems whilst providing sufficient income to make a living for the
farmer and ensure the jobs of employees?
The EU project SustainAqua aimed to answer several of these questions. With the overall aim to make the
European freshwater aquaculture industry more sustainable by improving production methods, research
potential market applications and increase product quality, SustainAqua undertook five different case studies
in Europe representative of the most relevant freshwater aquaculture systems and fish species. Various
practical techniques were tested, on how to strengthen the diverse aquaculture farms in Europe in a
sustainable way, from extensive and semi-intensive pond systems, which predominate in Central and
Eastern Europe, to intensive recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS) as they are practiced in North-Western
Europe. The main findings are described here in this SustainAqua handbook.
As a starting point, we discuss 'sustainability' and what this implies for aquaculture. We present the
indicators for sustainability that have been developed for evaluating the different SustainAqua case studies.
The different technologies in the sector – pond fish farming, flow-through and RAS – are briefly introduced to
classify the subsequent sections satisfactorily. As we all know, the work of fish farmers and the future
development of their farms are heavily influenced by the various national and European regulations which
are applied to the sector. Therefore, an introduction to the European regulatory framework is given. A very
important criterion for maintaining competitiveness on the market is excellence and proven fish quality and
the innovative utilisation of aquacultural by-products. One chapter in the handbook presents the impact of
different cultural systems on product quality and potential market applications for aquaculture by-products.
The core of this handbook consists of a description of the different modules researched in the five
SustainAqua case studies. The traditionally cultivated pond areas of Central Europe are represented by the
Hungarian and Polish case studies. In Hungary, water treatment of intensive flow-through fish production is
improved through constructed wetlands, deployed as biofilters. In addition, the advantages of combining
intensive and extensive aquaculture for the efficient use of water and nutrients are presented. The Polish
case study integrates aquaculture with the requirements of a modern agricultural farm in a ‘cascading’ pond
system by utilising animal manure to produce plankton as feed for carp polyculture. The general decrease in
demand for carp in Eastern Europe is addressed by introducing paddlefish as a new species into polyculture
to diversify species production, efficiently use nutrients and to increase the profitability of carp farms’.
In Denmark and the Netherlands, techniques for application in outdoor and indoor recirculation systems were
tested. Whilst in Denmark, rainbow trout was studied at so-called model farms with the aim to optimise
feeding management and to reduce the environmental impact and energy costs. The Dutch case study
looked at intensive tilapia production in RAS, using two different modules with a Manure Denitrifying Reactor
and Periphyton Turf Scrubber to reduce water use, energy consumption and the emission of nutrients. As a
unique case in Europe, the Swiss case study rounds off this project through rearing tilapia and tropical fruits
in a polyculture greenhouse system, using available waste heat, in order to prove that ‘waste’ can be used
as a multifunctional resource to produce economically and ecologically viable fish and co-products.
To make our scientific results transferable to farmers, the chapter "From a case study to a fish farm"
presents on-hand-information for implementing the modules, preceded by a general description, its
principles, the assessment of SustainAqua indicators, the factors contributing towards both success and
constraints as well as major benefits of sustainable aquaculture systems.
Freshwater aquaculture in Europe expects challenging times and looks forward to a bright future, so long as
we continue to combine our forces, both as researchers to further develop systems and the industry to
implement technologies for a sustainable aquaculture, and towards a sustainable European community.