The project

Intensive marine aquaculture systems in floating cages use natural resources (i.e. space, materials and auxiliary facilities, water to support fish, and feed and broodstock) and ecosystem services (i.e., oxygen replenishment and dispersal and assimilation of wastes) and transform materials through the use of energy to final products and wastes. Marine fish farming has been significantly developed in NW Greece (i.e. in Sagiada strip) and it is in developing stage in southern Albania. Currently, the profitability of the sector is affected by the high running costs (i.e. costs of feeds, fry and energy, etc.), the gradual strengthening of environmental regulations and the increased product quality requirements by the wholesalers, supermarkets, retailers and final consumers. Therefore, the application of environmentally-friendly practices and footprint reduction are expected to benefit aquatic environment and producers. In Thesprotia, 26 marine floating cage farms have been established, 21 of which in the Sagiada strip which borders to Albania. Moreover, the forthcoming establishment of the “Area of Organized Aquaculture Development (ΑOAD)” in Sagiada is expected to allow local producers achieve economies of scale and facilitate compliance with veterinary and environmental legislation. In Albania, the first cage farms were established along the Ionian coast from Vlora Bay to the south border with Greece. Currently, there are 23 marine cage farms situated in the Ionian Sea, producing sea bream and sea bass. A critical issue arising from the current situation in both sectors is that the overall ecological sustainability of the applied farming systems has not been studied in neither of the two countries. The Chamber of Thesprotia and the Chamber of Vlore have collaborated in the past in many economical, social and environmental issues. Among others, they have agreed that the marine fish farming sector influence the economical, social and environmental conditions in the cross border area, underlying the environmental impacts of the continuously increasing number of the intensive marine fish farms. This was the motivation to start discussion in order to propose the implementation of the current project. A method widely considered to assess the marine fish farm footprint is the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) method. LCA is able to:

  1. evaluate the environmental burdens associated with a product (in our scope, sea bass), process, or activity by identifying and quantifying energy and materials used and wastes released to the environment;
  2. assess the impact of those energy and materials used and releases to the environment; and
  3. identify and evaluate opportunities to achieve environmental improvements.

A partial LCA will be conducted following an attributional ‘cradle-to-farm-gate’ approach; focusing, thus, on the fish farm and expressing the environmental impacts per ton of sold, unprocessed fish.

Αll processes up to the purchase of the fish live-weight by the processing industry will be considered in the analysis. The effect of possible alterations in the subsequent processes (up to the final disposal of the products) on the environmental performance of the production chain is out of the scope of this project due to funding and time limitations. Using LCA in sea bass production is able to:

  1. comparatively assess culturing methods and production sites,
  2. identify non-environmentally friendly procedures or practices applied,
  3. suggest improvements to reduce the environmental footprint.

In parallel to the above process, improvement guidelines will be proposed for both cross-border areas/farms, on the following issues:

  1. environmental and water quality improvement of the surrounding culture environment,
  2. know-how, technology and good practices in selected farms,
  3. environmental footprint calculator for intensive marine fish production.

This tool has not been yet applied to the aquaculture sector of both countries and therefore is regarded as a new and innovative method in assessing the environmental ”performance” of the aquaculture production cycle. Accordingly, the outcome of LCA application has also significant value for the sector beyond project’s life-time.

The main target groups are policy makers and relevant institutions, consumers, residents in the eligible area, as well as marine fish farmers/SMEs.

ECO-FISH serves the specific objective 1.2: Increase the effectiveness of environmental protection and sustainable use of natural resources. The LCA method will be used to comparatively assess fish culturing methods & production sites in Sagiada (NW Greece) and southern Albania and suggest improvements to reduce the environmental footprint.The project aims to fulfill all 3 priorities of Europe 2020 plan:

– Smart growth: the project will contribute towards this scope by encouraging community & stakeholder collaboration in policy making & by indentifying the most cost effective production method.

– Sustainable growth: the core of the project refers to the use of scientific knowledge & modern techniques in order to access & reduce the environmental footprint of intensive marine fish production methods and production sites.

– Inclusive growth: since the term does not refer to strictly profit but also to the improvement of multidimensional living standards, local communities shall benefit from the project implementation in many ways: by the improvement of the natural environment in the area surrounding the farms, by the improvement in the quality of the final consumer products and by the received information on a variety of subjects such as blue growth, scientific applications, low carbon footprint, aspects of life quality etc.

Particular emphasis will be given to raise awareness among policy makers, producers, local communities and final consumers about sustainable development and cost effective production methods. The outputs of ECO-FISH project and especially best practices will be promoted in order to support the viability, profitability and dissemination of the proposed development plan. Finally, ECO-FISH aims to enhance further collaboration between the scientific and the business world, cohesion of the cross border area and application of common sustainable development policies.

ECO-FISH is an intervention throughout the specific production chain in order to exploit scientific knowledge, innovative applications, local advantages and effective promotional means and create a sustainable development perspective for populations in the CB area of Greece/Albania.LCA will be applied in the selected marine fish farms located in the cross border area of Greece and Albania across the Ionian Sea in order to comparatively assess culturing methods and production sites, identify non-environmentally friendly applied procedures and practices and suggest improvements for reducing the environmental footprint of the production cycle. In parallel, producers’ visits & summer school presentations will be organized to raise awareness on issues related to marine aquaculture systems and their sustainability. The scientific knowledge acquired will be disseminated in various ways. Major outputs are the development of computational tool (i.e. environmental footprint calculator) for intensive marine fish farms, as well as guidelines for lower carbon dioxide fish production. Within the framework of the project, the proposed actions are:

    • Elaboration of a Baseline study and Interviews, review and data collection regarding environmental quality, production methods, quality of the final product,
    • Application of a Life Cycle Assessment of fish cultures. Environmental footprint calculator for intensive marine fish cultures,
    • Producers visits and exchanges, summer school presentations:
    1. for marine fish production with under lower environmental carbon footprint,
    2. policy makers and relevant institutions,
    3. consumers blue growth and fish production &
    • Production of final report/ action plan, computational tool for LCA in fish cultures, good practices and dissemination for lower carbon dioxide fish production, leaflet of technology methods for Lower environmental footprint fish production.

ECO-FISH aims to propose actions that will contribute to the reduction of the environmental footprint of the marine aquaculture systems in the Ionian coasts of Greece and Albania, encourage sustainable use of natural resources, improve quality of final consumer products and raise awareness on related environmental issues. Additionally, it will support and promote the cooperation between the scientific and the business actors and authorities in both countries in order to develop policies regarding the environmental protection and sustainable development. The implementation of ECO-FISH is expected to facilitate compliance with veterinary and environmental legislation, to enhance sustainability of the specific SME’s and of the surrounding environment. ECO-FISH capitalizes on the fact that natural resources preservation, innovative scientific applications, economic development and regional cohesion are interrelated targets that should be approached simultaneously and cooperatively to maximize the benefits of applied policies. Further expected results are:

  • Increase awareness regarding the impact of intensive marine fish production methods on the preservation of natural resources and the competitiveness of local economies.
  • Development of common cross-border strategies/ policies regarding environmental protection and sustainable use of natural resources.
  • Stronger collaboration and relationships among research institutions, entrepreneurship supporting entities and SME’s at local/ CB/ transnational level.
  • Strengthen the collaboration and relationships among research institutions, entrepreneurship supporting entities and SME’s at local/ CB/ transnational level related to aquaculture.

Support potential future collaboration of similar scientific research & pilot EU projects.

ECO-FISH is structured in 6 WPs.

WP1: Project Management & coordination
WP2: Communication & dissemination
WP3: Exchanging experiences and baseline studies
WP4: Application of a Life Cycle Assessment in fish farms
WP5: Cross border exchanges and development of summer schools for stakeholders
WP6: Production of final report/ action plan for cross border area