Press release 2019-07-02

Major research initiative targets aquaculture around the Atlantic coast

Today, aquaculture is limited to a small number of highly demanded species. To lessen vulnerability to disease, greater diversity and stronger populations are needed. In a transatlantic EU project, researchers at IVL will develop techniques for cultivating both domestic and alien pacific oysters.

– Oysters are an underutilized resource. This is an industry with great potential, but also one facing great challenges, says Åsa Strand, marine biologist and project manager at IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.

Today, there is only one commercial flat oyster aquafarm operating in Swedish waters. It is primarily lack of access to fry that limits development of the industry. Currently, more than 80 per cent of all juveniles collected for cultivation belong to the invasive pacific oyster species, the exploitation of which is strictly regulated. There have been outbreaks of various viruses and parasites across Europe, and there is considerable risk that Swedish stocks will also be affected. Especially due to the fact that Sweden imports just over 400 tonnes of oysters every year, an import that is increasing year by year.

– We have identified these issues. Now we must develop methods and technology that take us a step further. The goal is to increase oyster production both in Sweden and internationally and to secure access to this climate-smart and healthy foodstuff, says Åsa Strand.

There is keen interest in sustainable aquaculture solutions in many parts of the world and an important sub-goal of the newly started EU project Aqua Vitae is to strengthen cooperation and promote knowledge exchange across the Atlantic. The project has been underway for four years and brings together over 70 researchers and entrepreneurs from 16 different countries. In addition to European actors, organizations from Brazil, South Africa, Namibia and the USA take part. IVL will particularly focus on a close cooperation with Brazil.

Aqua Vitae targets the entire aquaculture value chain: from market analysis and consumer perspectives to circularity in production systems, sustainability and technology development. In addition to targeting new cultivation techniques for both domestic and pacific oysters, IVL will develop new protocols for land-based hatcheries and offshore fry collection.

Aqua Vitae is financed with eight million euros through Horizon 2020.

For more information, please contact:
Åsa Strand, asa.strand@ivl.se, +46 (0)10-788 66 05