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Increasing Value and Sustainability of Aquaculture

ASTRAL is a new EU-funded research project with a budget of nearly €8m. to increase value and sustainability from integrated multi-trophic aquaculture production (IMTA) by developing new, resilient and profitable value chains.

Ireland’s aquaculture sector produces 38,000 tonnes annually, a valuable food product providing employment in coastal communities.

ASTRAL (All Atlantic Ocean Sustainable, Profitable and Resilient Aquaculture) involves farming multiple, complementary species from different levels of the food chain together for their mutual benefit. The waste from one aquatic species are used as food for another species. The fish are fed, the shellfish filter out microscopic plants and organic content from the water and seaweed absorbs the minerals in the water. The natural ability for these species, shellfish and seaweed, to recycle the nutrients or waste that are present in and around fish farms can help improve the environment performance of aquaculture production sites. This approach also maximises the use of space and the diversity of species provides extra economic benefits, according to its supporters.

There will be research sites in Scotland, South Africa, Brazil and the Marine Institute’s Lehanagh Pool in Connemara, Co Galway. Over the next four years, the Lehanagh Pool research site will produce Atlantic salmon, lumpfish, European lobster, king scallop, sea urchin and brown and green species of seaweed under IMTA processes. The production of these species together will allow the Marine Institute to test how well each species grows and enable the research team to investigate new production methods.

The Marine Institute will also lead one of the work packages, which involves overseeing the five research sites in the ASTRAL project, which includes 16 partners from 10 countries around the Atlantic Ocean. It is led by the Norwegian Research Centre.

Marine Institute CEO Appointed to ICES Policy-Making Council

Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute, has been elected to the Bureau of The International Council for the Exploration of the Seas.

ICES is an intergovernmental marine science organisation, with a network of 6000 scientists from over 700 marine institutes in the 20 member countries that border the North Atlantic. Through strategic partnershipsit extends into the Arctic, the Mediterranean and Black Seas and the North Pacific Ocean. 2,500 scientists participate in ICES activities annually. Dr Connolly has served the ICES community since he was first appointed Irish delegate in 2000 which was also when he took up his role as Director of Fisheries and Ecosystems Advisory Services at the Marine Institute. He was elected Vice President of ICES in 2003 and was President from 2012 to 2015, leading the development of the ICES Strategic Plan from 2014 – 2018.