Aquaculture and the environment

14 August 2009 | News story

Aquaculture is currently facing a significant worldwide challenge to meet the increasing demand for high-quality sea products in both local and international markets, whilst at the same time trying to avoid environmental problems.

Over the past decade, there has been a growing concern among international stakeholders, particularly in Mediterranean countries, about the quality of aquaculture products, the health and welfare of the fish, as well as the sustainability of food production within the aquaculture sector.

Therefore, IUCN has chosen to study the issues derived from aquaculture, and its sustainable development. In order to do this, and to make sure that the projects advance further than just ideas, IUCN signed a cooperation agreement in 2004 with the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP).

With financial support from the General Secretariat of the Sea of the Spanish Ministry of the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs (MARM), IUCN has begun preparing a series of Guides for the Sustainable Development of Mediterranean Aquaculture; the result of constructive debates between representatives from the Mediterranean industry, conservation organizations and scientists.

The first Guide, published in June 2007, deals with the interactions between aquaculture and the environment, and tries to address the different aspects derived from this interaction, while the second Guide (August 2009) seeks to address the fundamental topics to be taken into account during aquaculture site selection and site management.

Volume 3, which will be launched in September 2009, is devoted to responsible aquaculture management practices and certification, with a view to achieve sustainability within the Mediterranean region. It includes topics such as developing codes of conduct and better aquaculture practices; implementing bases for certification schemes; examining the existing types of certification schemes; and the need for certifying sustainability.

As Mediterranean aquaculture must compete with imports from Asia and South America, where the growth of aquaculture production is the highest in the world, it is therefore important to improve aquaculture management practices in the Mediterranean area, and certify it for consumers.