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Let's talk about sustainable aquaculture

Participants in the recent Aquaculture Dialogue Meeting offer their perspectives on the conference and the role of ICES in sustainable aquaculture.
Published: 1 July 2015

ICES Aquaculture Dialogue Meeting took place at the beginning of June in Bergen, Norway. Hosted by the Institute of Marine Research, industry, stakeholders, policy-managers, and scientists gathered for two days to discuss how ICES science, data, and advice can support sustainable aquaculture

ICES has a long tradition in aquaculture research and when deciding on action areas for the Strategic Plan 2014-2018, it was agreed to further develop science, advisory, and data work in this area. The ICES community has expertise and knowledge that is valuable for the management and development of aquaculture and the dialogue meeting provided an opportunity to present this potential to management authorities and stakeholders, as well as identify how the ICES science and advisory system can underpin development in the field of aquaculture.

Gap in the market?

When asked if ICES is entering a market that may already be supplied, Eskild Kirkegaard, Chair of ICES Advisory Committee replied, "Yes and no. There is quite a lot of aquaculture research and advice activities carried out across our member countries and national experts serve as advisors to government, as well as to the aquaculture industry. You could therefore ask what ICES can offer that the national scientists have not already delivered. I think this was clearly answered at the dialogue meeting. Policymakers, as well stakeholder representatives, all identified a need for knowledge and advice that lives up to ICES standards of being independent, quality-assured, transparent, and based on the best available science. To support the development of international standards, the dialogue meeting identified a need for international advice in addition to national advice on issues like environmental management including definition of acceptable environmental impact, spatial planning, standards for monitoring and impact assessments and social issues."​

​Views and reviews

Jon Arne Grøttum, Director of the Norwegian Seafood Federation, participated to learn more about ICES and find out if it would be in his organization's interest for the two to have a closer cooperation. Following the meeting, he commented, "I think there is a general opinion within the industry that it is important to increase knowledge on the variation in Atlantic salmon stocks. Today, national research focuses on a few factors that may have an impact on salmon but are not able to offer a complete overview and understanding of the variation in the fisheries. Because of the position ICES occupy and their evaluation and understanding of variation in other marine species, industry would welcome it if ICES could contribute with more knowledge on salmon."

Karen Alexander, a researcher in marine social science at the Scottish Association for Marine Science, works with stakeholders to identify opportunities and constraints relating to marine industry development and investigates ways in which policy and legislation can affect innovation in the transition to a green economy. Alexander attended to gain first-hand experience of what is involved in discussions of this nature at ICES and to highlight the importance of social science research in discussions regarding the role of ICES in aquaculture.

"I feel that the meeting was a really positive experience and I feel like much was achieved by those participating, particularly in the break-out sessions. There was occasionally disagreement within the group, but we were largely able to come to a consensus. It was good to get a feel for the work that is already being undertaken by the Working Group on Aquaculture (WGAQUA) and on Social and Economic Dimensions of Aquaculture (WGSEDA)​." 

Piers Hart, Global Lead for WWF's work on Market Transformation of Aquaculture has more than 30 years' experience in aquaculture, academia, and research as well as working in industry and with NGOs. Hart believes that the focus must be on sustainability with a view to food security and livelihoods. Following the meeting he said, "ICES could have a significant impact on the future direction of the industry if it can really decide what type of advice it can realistically contribute and how that can be conveyed to industry and government in a way that is useful and provides clarity on the sustainability issues that presently affect the industry. The key to success is for it to correctly identify which issues it is best able to tackle and how its working model and partners can really deliver useful advice. It needs to identify what it is that the industry/governments really need that it can provide better than any other existing organization."

Playing a role

Kirkegaard agreed on the need to define ICES role. "I think the meeting provided a new perspective on what we could provide. We often link advice to giving recommendations. The dialogue illustrated the need to broaden the understanding and definition of advice. Our role identified at the meeting was just as much as knowledge provider as advice provider. To support sustainable aquaculture developments there is a need for science-based knowledge on environmental interactions, as well as on the growth of the sector. The deliverables that were requested were not only advice in the traditional meaning but knowledge that can support the sustainability and growth of aquaculture."

Forward thinking

Recommendations based on the discussions that took place at the dialogue meeting will now be drawn up for consideration at ICES governing body meeting in October. Areas to be considered include whether identified scientific issues are currently part of the work of the aquaculture expert groups, which areas and issues ICES has the ability to support through its advice, where access to and use of data can be supported, and other organizations' work and how ICES can focus on needs and gaps.


View the speakers' presentations from the Aquaculture Dialogue Meeting on the ICES we​bsite. ​

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Let's talk about sustainable aquaculture

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