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Ecological intensification of fish farming

The last few decades have shown high growth in global fish farming, whose quantity of production now equals that of fisheries. This change is associated with varying degrees of intensification of fish farming among countries. Therefore, many conflicts arise, and the place of fish farming is regularly discussed within regions, both as an opportunity and a risk. Therefore, it is necessary to reconsider the development of fish farming in the context of a growing human population on a planet with limited resources, but also in relation to local issues. Consequently, the PISCEnLIT project adapted the concept of ecologically intensive agriculture (use of ecological processes and functions to control pests, reduce pollution, make better use of resources and improve services provided by ecosystems) to aquaculture. It offers ways to re-design aquaculture systems using biophysical and social mechanisms.

PISCEnLIT project polyculture system panga-gurami, Muara Jambi , Indonesia. IRD ©

Our approach defines the ecological intensification of aquaculture as a process that considers agroecological principles, services supplied by the aquaculture ecosystem, and issues facing different types of aquaculture worldwide. We first performed biophysical and ecological assessment (in particular, Life Cycle Assessment) coupled with analysis of the perception of ecosystem services by regional actors. We then defined scenarios of change and performed experiments with new aquaculture practices. This approach was applied to six regions selected to cover a variety of aquaculture systems, ecosystems and socio-economic contexts:  Lorraine, Brenne and Normandy in France, the state of Santa Catarina in Brazil and the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. The production systems studied ranged from extensive polyculture with few inputs to monoculture farms with an exogenous food supply in open or recycled water systems.

The project generated ​​a general definition of ecological intensification of aquaculture based on the boundaries of the regions with aquaculture (locally or at a distance). It identified seven objectives to guide ecological intensification and a set of indicators to monitor its application. Depending on the site studied, experiments showed the environmental and economic potential of certain practices based on nutrient recycling, the association of fish and/or plant species, and proposed new production systems.  The project also helped to change the perception of aquaculture by some local governments.

The project generated seven articles published in peer-reviewed journals, mainly on single issues in social or environmental sciences. Fifteen presentations were given during scientific conferences that focused on crossover between different scientific topics. A guide is currently being developed for scientific and extension purposes, along with a planned English version. A one-day seminar will be held in July 2014 during the Journées de la Recherche Française en Pisciculture.

The PISCEnLIT project was an applied research project coordinated by INRA (National Institute for Agricultural Research). It also involved the Universities of Montpellier and Lorraine, the IRD (Institute of Research for Development), CIRAD (Centre for International Cooperation in Agronomic Research for Development), IFREMER (French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea), EPAGRI (Agricultural research and rural development company, Santa Catarina, Brazil), the AMAFRAD (Agency for Marine and Fisheries Research and Development, Indonesia), AB (Directorate General of Aquaculture, Indonesia), and development partners such as ITAVI (Technical Institute of Poultry, France).

The project began in January 2010 and lasted 48 months. ANR and AIRD supported the project by providing € 595,000 of the total cost of approximately € 1,777,000. This project is certified by the Pôle Mer Bretagne.