SARF 106: A risk benefit analysis of aquaculture as a means to reduce the impacts of terrestrial production of food and energy with particular regard to greenhouse gas emissions, freshwater and land use

Start Date: 15th September 2014
End Date:15th March 2015
Main Contractor(s): ABP Marine Environmental Research Ltd
Other Sponsor(s):  WWF


The project objectives as defined in the specification are as follows:

1. A brief summary description of mariculture production of both fish and shellfish for food covering techniques, systems and production trends;

2. A brief summary description of mariculture for biomass, existing knowledge of techniques, products and production trends as well as the process for producing energy and other products from algal biomass, efficiencies and comparisons with other methods of energy production;

3. A detailed and comprehensive presentation of existing knowledge on the footprint of both terrestrial food production and mariculture systems in terms of ghg emissions, water use and land use (including processing in the case of algal biomass) in order to compare mariculture with existing techniques of livestock, food and energy production. This component should include discussion on the potential reduction of nutrients in coastal areas through production of algal biomass. Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) techniques could be used or the results of past LCA studies critically reviewed and compared. Suggestions for improving existing LCA techniques for mariculture could be included. The research must consider a seascape approach when considering cumulative effects and not just a disembodied LCA approach. It is from the concentration of production and its siting that the principal risks may arise. High concentrations of mariculture may have negative social, economic or environmental impacts and may exceed the carry capacity of local marine resources, while also having the potential to sequester carbon, nutrients and provide protection for breeding and small fish;

4. Analysis of the data from components 1-3 which generates ideas and discussion on the potential for mariculture to produce food and energy, bio-material, mineral extraction through seaweed, feed, fertiliser as well as and what the footprint would look like. This should include where production would take place and the potential social benefits/impacts and environmental impacts on marine biodiversity, required volumes to meet future demands and the potential surface area of ocean required. A discussion on future technology improvements that would mitigate against any identified environmental and social impacts and costs would also be useful. The consultant should also suggest next steps for research, present the limitations of the project and conclusion of the findings.

Both ABPmer and the Institute of Aquaculture (IoA), University of Stirling, will be contributing to all of the above Objectives.