In the EU, the aquaculture industry employs around 39,000 people and produces approximately 1.3 million tonnes of fish and shellfish a year with a net worth of 4 billion Euros.
In an effort to reduce demand on wild fish stocks, reform to the Common fisheries Policy in 2013, called on members to increase their levels of sustainable aquaculture. However, growth in this sector has remained relatively static since 2000, (Nielsen and Motova, JRC scientific and Policy Reports (2014). The economic performance of the EU Aquaculture Sector (STEFC 14-18). Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF).
One factor limiting the development of aquaculture is the high economic cost associated with the detrimental impacts on human health, tourism, Industry and business confidence, of blooms of harmful micro-algae (HABs) and bacterial pathogens.
If sustainable growth of the aquaculture industry is to take place it is therefore critical that marketed shellfish are safe for human consumption and mortalities of farmed fish are kept to a minimum.
In European waters, several genera of phytoplankton produce harmful algal blooms (HABs) that negatively affect finfish and shellfish aquaculture. Some HABs produce natural biotoxins that can accumulate in filter feeding shellfish and subsequently affect human consumers. Others can also kill farmed fish due to toxins, physical damage, or deoxygenation.
Shellfish safety is also impacted by various microbial risks including norovirus and other pathogens responsible for illness in consumers of contaminated product and by emerging risks such as Vibrio parahaemolyticus that has the potential to accumulate tetrodotoxin in bivalves.
Although prevention of these harmful events is (in general) not possible, early warning may allow mitigation measures to be put in place that will safeguard health and business operations. Future climate driven change of these impacts on aquaculture has not been reliably evaluated and this will be carried out during the course of this project.