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13 November 2012

Fish farming in focus

Mistra is considering an aquaculture research initiative. The question is currently under investigation by a Nordic expert group. In March 2013 Mistra’s Board will decide whether to issue a call for funding applications.

Farmed fish is increasingly common in our diet and now accounts for roughly half the world’s fish consumption. As fish and shellfish farms proliferate, a review of production and scope for making it more sustainable is called for. International discussions about how to do so are under way, says Mistra’s Thomas Nilsson.

‘Many natural fish stocks have been overfished or are under heavy pressure. An alternative is to farm fish, but fish farms affect the environment too. What’s more, these farms increase the pressure on natural fish stocks since fish meal is often used as fish food,’ Nilsson says.

In Sweden, aquaculture (as farming of fish and shellfish is also called) is still a relatively small industry. At national level, there are hopes that it will expand. The Swedish Board of Agriculture has recently drawn up a strategy to foster growth in the sector between now and 2020.

Planning for a new research initiative

In 2011 Mistra’s Board decided to explore the scope for an aquaculture research initiative. A planning group was therefore appointed at the beginning of 2012. Heading the group is the former Director-General of the Swedish Board of Fisheries, Axel Wenblad. To assist him he has three eminent experts, from Denmark, Norway and Finland. Each of these neighbouring countries has a bigger aquaculture sector than Sweden.

The group has interviewed Swedish researchers, but also the public agencies and organisations concerned. Their aim was to find out about existing aquaculture research and the nature of the industry, and what further research is needed.

‘Sweden has strict environmental rules on fish farming. One challenge is to develop technology that involves reducing emissions and ensuring that the farms don’t contribute to eutrophication in the sea and lakes. That’s one aspect the planning group is looking at,’ says Thomas Nilsson.

So far, the group has had two meetings. In January a hearing will be held to continue the discussion with the stakeholders, and in March a report will be presented to Mistra’s Board. If the decision is that Mistra should invest in aquaculture research, a call for funding applications may be issued as early as in 2013.

Text by Henrik Lundström, Vetenskapsjournalisterna


In Sweden there are about a hundred farms producing fish for the table. There are just as many hatcheries supplying fish for stocking lakes and watercourses. These are released to preserve endangered species or improve scope for fishing. The fish species most commonly farmed in Sweden is rainbow trout. Farms also supply, for example, char, eel, crayfish and mussels. In 2011, fish and shellfish farms in Sweden had a turnover of SEK 328 million and employed 392 people.
Sources: Swedish Board of Agriculture and Statistics Sweden

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