• Scottish sea trout farm in Loch Etive with rainbow above


Ecosystem approach to make space for sustainable aquaculture


Within the EU citizens consume an increasing amount of seafood that is mostly imported, generating a trade deficity of €16.6 billion in 2014. Globally aquaculture is a rapidly growing industry but production in the EU has been stagnant, thus constantly increasing the trade deficit. AquaSpace explores the contraints to aquaculture growth in Europe to determine if it is based on environmental capacity, social capacity, or perhaps competition for space.


Project goal

The central goal of the AquaSpace project is to provide increased space of high water quality for aquaculture by adopting the Ecosystem Approach to Aquaculture (EAA) using Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) to deliver food security and increased employment opportunities through economic growth. MSP is strategic, forward-looking planning for regulating, managing and protecting the marine environment, including through allocation of space, that addresses the multiple, cumulative, and potentially conflicting uses of the sea.


AquaSpace approach

We are using 16 aquaculture sites around the world as case studies to identify space-related constraints to development in a range of contexts, scales and production types. We work in marine and freshwater environments from northern Europe to the Mediterranean, Portugal to Hungary, North America to China. Stakeholders are integral to identifying planning issues for development.

We are also evaluating a range of tools used to facilitate the aquaculture planning process to overcome existing contraints. We will deliver a practical toolbox with functioning tools that have been vigorously assessed and tested.

WP2 Accurately identify industry-wide issues and options

  • >characterise key influences on the use of space by aquaculture including: governance, legal, environmental, economic, social and cultural issues
  • >determine and prioritise the key issues constraining the growth of aquaculture in Europe: in close consultation with stakeholders


WP3 Develop and deliver tailored tools

  • >characterise existing tools for assessing spatial issues in relation to aquaculture
  • >customise or further develop operational tool(s) allowing for a risk-based analysis of spatial management options to support the licensing process and facilitate investments, defined in a given spatial planning context


WP4 Work collaboratively with stakeholders on validation of tools

  • >In case studies, engage end-users in an issue-focused, user-driven and scale-sensitive manner to test and assess relevant tools and document their utility
  • >evaluate and compare the outcomes of case studies and the suitability of different tools, synthesising the lessons learned across spatial and temporal scales, institutional and governance levels, environments, culture practices, and cultivated species
  • >work with users to produce an innovative web-based platform to deliver the results of the project outputs (tools, evaluations, case studies, synthesis) with entry tailored to the needs of different user profiles (industry, planners, public) providing information and operational tools to end-users


WP5 Synthesise outcomes for post-project legacy and impact

  • >establish critera and guidance for selection / application of tested tools
  • >construct decision-support online toolbox


WP6 Impacts through effective Knowledge Exchange

  • >Masters level online module on MSP for Aquaculture + CPD course, newsletters, media presentations and articles, Web 2.0 tools, and smartphone apps, peer-reviewed open access journal papers, edited book, school video competition
  1. In Scotland AquaSpace continues the collaboration with Marine Scotland Science on transmission of sea lice between fish farms.
  2. The project explores the role of HD visualisation in forming planning opinions
  3. AquaSpace contrasts spatial planning for aquaculture in Argyll and Bute and in Shetland, considering planning policy and process, stakeholder understanding as well as perception and culture.