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Promoting responsible fisheries, embracing sustainable aquaculture

Meeting demand for seafood, sustainably

Addressing global demand for seafood while mitigating unsustainable production practices presents a considerable challenge. Seafood and climate change are intricately linked: fisheries around the world are vulnerable due to the impacts of climate change, and at the same time, blue food is a critical element of a climate-friendly and nutritious food system.

Through fisheries, we promote the creation of new markets for new undervalued fish species, incl. invasive species, to bring more sustainable choices to consumers. Further, we are exploring uses for residual streams from processing of fish, to develop a truly circular zero waste economy. On the aquaculture front we are promoting on-land circular production methods (RAS) that efficiently use resources, such as water and energy and exploring the expansion of sustainable fed aquaculture.

Discover our fisheries and aquaculture projects

Our projects are supporting responsible fisheries and embracing sustainable aquaculture methods and innovative industrial symbiosis concepts

Taking action on fisheries, aquaculture and fish processing

Fisheries in the Baltic Sea face several challenges due to factors such as overfishing and environmental degradation. Quota policies and declining fish stocks have led to social and economic challenges in coastal communities. Promoting new value chains –i.e. the invasive species round goby – will open new opportunities for Baltic fishermen to foster economic development.  

Eutrophication conditions in the Baltic Sea limit aquaculture growth. By promoting land-based aquaculture in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), it is possible to produce high-quality and nutritious food close to market and make use of resource-efficient systems with low environmental impact.  

Fisheries and aquaculture generate substantial quantities of side streams in the production and processing stages, often destined for low-value uses such as low-value animal feed or the energy sector. Promoting new value chains and innovative uses of seafood side streams is a way to increase the resilience and environmental and ecological sustainability of the seafood industry.

Aquaculture resources hub

Our specialists have put together a collection of publications, additional relevant projects, tools, and resources on the topic of fisheries and sustainable aquaculture

Biomass production, supply, uses and flows in the European Union
Biomass production, supply, uses and flows in the European Union
This issue in the series of reports prepared under the JRC Biomass mandate,...
Current status of recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS) and their profitability and competitiveness in the Baltic Sea area
Current status of recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS) and their profitability and competitiveness inthe Baltic Sea area
This report on recirculation aquaculture systems and their profitability and...
Organic aquaculture in the EU
Current situation, drivers, barriers, potential for growth
Aquaculture from Wastewater reclamation.
Microbial management in RAS for sustainable aquaculture production
Optimal utilization of seafood side-streams through the design of new holistic...
Sustainable Fisheries Working Group
Sustainable Fisheries Working Group
The Sustainable Fisheries Working Group meets online twice a year to discuss...
InnoAquaTech - Decision Support Tool
InnoAquaTech - Decision Support Tool
The purpose of this tool is to give all interested parties an overview of how...
Oceans and fisheries
Oceans and fisheries
A compilation of the European Commission's resources related to oceans and fisheries....

Latest fisheries & aquaculture news

Still have questions? We have answers

Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms such as fish, shellfish, algae, and other organisms in controlled aquatic environments like ponds, tanks, or ocean pens. It involves raising these organisms under controlled conditions to produce food, feed, enhance populations for conservation, or generate other products. In this section, we focus on fish and crustacean aquaculture, as algae and bivalves are covered in other solutions.

Aquaculture can take many forms, depending on the type of aquatic organisms being cultivated and the environment in which they are raised. Here are some common types of aquaculture:  

  • Marine aquaculture: this involves farming marine organisms in ocean or coastal waters. It can include the cultivation of finfish such as salmon, and sea bass, as well as shellfish like oysters, mussels, and shrimp. Marine aquaculture operations can range from offshore cages and pens to nearshore facilities.  
  • Freshwater aquaculture: freshwater aquaculture involves raising fish, crustaceans, and plants in ponds, lakes, rivers, or tanks. Common species cultivated in freshwater aquaculture include trout, carp, catfish, tilapia, and crayfish. These systems can vary in scale from small extensive earthen pond farms to large intensive commercial operations.  
  • Recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS): are closed-loop systems designed to raise fish and other aquatic organisms in controlled environments, where water is continuously recycled and treated to maintain optimal conditions for growth. 
  • Aquaponics: aquaponics combines aquaculture with hydroponics, a method of growing plants without soil. In aquaponic systems, fish waste provides nutrients for plants, and the plants help filter and clean the water for the fish. This symbiotic relationship allows for the simultaneous production of fish and vegetables sustainably and efficiently.  
  • Integrated-Multi-Trophic-Aquaculture (IMTA): IMTA involves cultivating multiple species together in the same system, taking advantage of the complementary interactions between different organisms. For example, fish waste from one species can serve as nutrients for seaweed or shellfish, helping minimize environmental impacts and maximize resource utilization.  
  • Offshore aquaculture: this involves faring marine organisms in deeper offshore waters, typically using submerged cages or floating platforms. This approach allows for larger-scale production while minimizing conflicts with other activities and ecosystems closer to shore.  


These are just a few examples of the diverse range of aquaculture systems and methods employed around the world. Aquaculture continues to evolve with advancements in technology and sustainable practices, playing an increasingly important role in global food security and environmental conservation. 

Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) are closed-loop systems designed to raise aquatic organisms such as fish, crustaceans, and plants in controlled environments. In RAS, water is continuously circulated and treated within the system, minimizing the need for renewal water. This allows for precise control of water quality parameters such as temperature, oxygen levels, pH, and ammonia concentration, creating optimal conditions for growth and health of the organisms being cultivated. RAS can be implemented in various scales, from small-scale operations to large commercial facilities, and are used for aquaculture production, research, and conservation purposes.

While Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) offer many benefits, they also face several challenges: 

  • High Initial Investment: Setting up a RAS facility requires significant upfront capital investment for infrastructure, equipment, and technology. This initial cost can be a barrier for small-scale farmers or new entrants into the aquaculture industry. 
  • Energy Consumption: RAS rely on pumps, filters, and other equipment to recirculate and treat water, which can consume large amounts of energy. Managing energy costs is a challenge for RAS operators and can impact the overall economic viability of the system. 
  • Technical Complexity: Operating and maintaining a RAS facility requires specialized knowledge and skills in water quality management, system design, and equipment maintenance. Ensuring proper functioning and efficiency of the system can be challenging, especially for inexperienced operators. 
  • Water Treatment and Disposal: RAS generate waste products such as solid particles, uneaten feed, and metabolic byproducts that require treatment and disposal. Managing waste effectively while maintaining water quality standards can be technically challenging and may represent an economic burden. 
  • Scaling Up Production: Scaling up RAS production to commercial levels while maintaining economic viability and environmental sustainability can be challenging. Ensuring adequate market demand, optimizing production efficiency, and managing operational costs are critical factors for successful expansion. 
  • Regulatory Compliance: RAS operators must comply with regulations and permits related to water discharge, waste management, and environmental impact assessments. Navigating regulatory requirements and obtaining permits can be time-consuming and costly. 

Addressing these challenges requires ongoing research, innovation, and collaboration among stakeholders in the aquaculture industry, government agencies, academia, and technology providers to advance the development and adoption of sustainable RAS technologies.

Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) offer several benefits: 

  • Water Conservation: RAS recirculate water within a closed system, minimizing the need for new water compared to traditional aquaculture methods, where water is continuously discharged. This helps conserve water resources, especially in areas prone to drought or water scarcity. 
  • Reduced Environmental Impact: RAS can minimize the release of pollutants and waste into the environment, as water is treated and reused within the system. This reduces the risk of water pollution and helps protect local ecosystems and water quality. 
  • Optimized Growth Conditions: RAS allow for precise control of water quality parameters such as temperature, oxygen levels, pH, and ammonia concentration. This enables optimal conditions for fish growth, health, and reproduction, leading to faster growth rates and improved production efficiency. 
  • Year-Round Production: RAS can operate year-round and are not limited by seasonal variations or environmental conditions. This provides a consistent supply of fish regardless of external factors such as weather patterns or water temperature fluctuations. 
  • Reduced Disease Risk: The controlled environment of RAS helps minimize the risk of disease outbreaks compared to open systems, where fish are exposed to potentially harmful pathogens from the surrounding environment. This can lead to lower mortality rates and increased overall fish health. 
  • Land-Based Farming: RAS can be implemented on land, reducing the need for coastal or freshwater habitats and minimizing the potential environmental impacts associated with traditional aquaculture practices such as habitat destruction or alteration. 
  • Localization of Production: RAS can be implemented closer to consumer markets, reducing the need for long-distance transportation and associated carbon emissions. This supports local economies and food security by providing fresh, locally produced seafood. 


Overall, Recirculating Aquaculture Systems offer a sustainable and efficient method of fish production with numerous environmental, economic, and social benefits.

Want to know more?

Reach out to our expert

Maria Jose de la Pena, Project Manager

Passionate about making aquaculture sustainable?