Background and current situation
Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing aquatic food production sector in the world. Over the past three decades outputs have substantially increased within most EC countries. This development was accompanied by a drastic decline in fishery yields while public demand for aquatic products has constantly risen.
The overall highly competitive use of Germans North Sea areas, restricted access and environmentally unfavourable conditions in most of the coastal waters and a lack in a sufficient regulatory framework has caused a rather stagnant development in this food production sector. This has highlighted the need of new alternative strategies to maintain the well-being of the marine ecosystem, to meet the increasing market demand of the food sector and at the same time to provide alternative livelihood schemes for the local populations.
In the year 2000 plans were promoted to implement large wind farms far out in the German North Sea and large areas within the coastal sea and further offshore were reserved for potential operators. As wind energy operation only takes place above water surfaces the idea was born to co-use these areas for offshore aquaculture.
Is offshore aquaculture a realistic perspective for future cultivation of mussels, seaweeds or even fish? Are longline cultivation techniques adaptable to high energy environments and different culture candidates? Is the use of the groundings of the wind turbines feasible to attach the culture constructions while at the same time having the strong hydrodynamic conditions? These were the main questions pursued by scientists at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research when starting the first projects.
First results proved the biological and technical feasibility of offshore aquaculture in the German North Sea for candidates like mussels and seaweeds. Nowadays, more detailed approaches try to analyse best culture areas, best product quality but focus also on economic and socio-economic aspects.
Social science methods are applied that analyse possible approaches to implement multiple-use concepts in offshore areas and that seek to better understand the role of the potentially involved actor groups in a wind farm-mariculture interaction. Research focuses on the potentialities and organizational aspects of a co-management scheme between wind farm operators, mussel fishermen, and public authorities and includes existing views and knowledge of relevant target groups. In addition, the specific public and private actors’ attitudes towards offshore aquaculture development within wind farm territory are investigated.
Present results point to the need for a credible mechanism for how the key target groups, particularly fishery, wind energy, and public authorities, could better be integrated into future planning and implementation of multiple-use issues. Moreover, secured background information has to be provided to the key actors by means of a comprehensive communication strategy in order to increase their knowledge on overall feasibility of such a multiple-use setting.
To date, the working group "Marine Aquaculture for Sustainable Fisheries" focuses mainly on different aquaculture and technology research objectives as well as on ICZM. These are:
Offshore Aquaculture: To explore the possibility to move offshore and set up an effective, environmental friendly, sustainable and extensive culture of mussels, oysters and macroalgae.
Recirculation Systems: To develop and to implement a clean intensive culture of marine fish in cost-effective recirculation systems with low waste output.
Maritime Technologies: To design technologies which are able to resist harsh weather conditions while at the same time ease handling at low investment costs.
ICZM: To investigate the potentialities for an offshore wind farm - mariculture interaction and to develop a multiple-use concept for an integrated analysis of maritime activities.