Sustainable seafood

Aquaculture is one of the fastest-growing food production sectors globally. However, the development of this sector, together with fisheries, is often questioned regarding their sustainability. Ghent University is a world leader in research on sustainable aquaculture, such as hatchery technology, extractive aquaculture using e.g. seaweed and mollusks, strategies to tackle diseases and stress, as well as new sustainable technologies for integrated aquaculture in offshore wind farms.

Global population growth will lead to a large increase in global demand for food. We therefore face the challenge of increasing food production in the context of increasing climate-related risks, competition, resource scarcity and the need to conserve the world's ecosystems.

Currently, fish accounts for about 15.7% of animal proteins consumed daily worldwide, and fisheries have been and continue to be a major supplier of these proteins. Yet, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has estimated that aquaculture already accounts for half of the aquatic protein supply and that this will increase to 65% by 2030. This makes aquaculture one of the fastest-growing sectors for animal food production.

Changes in marine ecosystems due to climate change, ocean acidification and increasing human activities can lead to further degradation of fish stocks and change the marine environment in general. It is now widely accepted that fisheries should be managed based on the ecosystem approach. Ghent University research on marine ecosystem structure and functioning can hence contribute strongly to this ecosystem approach and support sustainable fisheries.

Aquaculture has the potential to grow, but will need to address the issue of resource sourcing: which sources of proteins and fats can support the growing aquaculture industry? Which species should aquaculture focus on to maximise resource efficiency? How can we solve increasing disease problems as the industry intensifies? These and other issues must be addressed to sustain aquaculture globally, but also to provide fresh and reliable products to local markets. Sustainable aquaculture can support coastal communities by diversifying their operations while alleviating fishing pressure.

Aquaculture can probably grow further by operating low down the food chain, for example by focusing on filter feeders in the marine environment, or at least adopting a multi-trophic approach, or applying closed systems on land. But even such an industry is not without its challenges. More information is needed on impacts, including long-term environmental and social sustainability. The industry may also need to operate in areas designated for multiple use (e.g. wind farms) or areas where the needed resources are readily available (e.g. waste heat).

We provide knowledge and expertise on topics like:

  • Circular Economy
  • Aquaculture
  • Life cycle control
  • Histology
  • Morphology
  • Veterinary science
  • Nutrition
  • Diseases
  • Ecology, like stress ecology and food web ecology
  • Biochemical profiling of marine organisms
  • Feed
  • Packaging
  • Recycling

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