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Researcher Diego Mendiola leads several aquaculture projects offshore in the Basque Country. (Photo: Stock File)

AZTI analyses mussel, oyster and clam breeding and fattening in the high seas

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Friday, August 30, 2013, 04:30 (GMT + 9)

Researchers at the Expert Technology Centre in Marine and Food Research (AZTI-Tecnalia) are studying the breeding and fattening process of several  molluscs offshore and the possibility of installing submersible cages for fattening tuna.

The scientists hope to raise molluscs and develop a means of economic activity based on offshore farming to diversify their capture activities and generate profits for the food industry and the ancillary sector, Diario Vasco reported.

The scientific team of AZTI-Tecnalia believes there are opportunities to implement this new industry in the area, where there are open sea spaces. In addition, the three species are in high demand in the Basque Country.

However, there are some issues that must be considered, such as the underdevelopment of the sector and some technical problems that may arise at the offshore facilities due to the strong waves that are recorded on the Basque coast.

AZTI-Tecnalia experts are working on spatial planning and ecological validation of the areas suitable for farming the molluscs. Along with the Basque Government, possible locations for this practice were identified along the coastal strip between Mutriku and Mendexa and in the areas near Elantxobe.

According to the studies conducted so far to date, in the Basque free area there could be 1,494 hectares of labour to produce between 59,760 and 110,520 tonnes, with a turnover amounting to between EUR 23 million and EUR 47 million.

Diego Mendiola, in charge of the research group, considers that the "major technical difficulties have to do with aspects of use availability of the spaces on the Basque coast, ocean-meteorological conditions, the final food product quality or the profitability of the activity."

He also explained that recent biological studies indicate that the average growth rate of mussels after six months’ farming in Basque waters is 0.34 centimetres a month. "This value is almost similar to that observed in other areas where the mussel activity has already been a commercial reality for years," said the scientist, El Correo informed.

With regard to the possibility of installing cages for tuna farming, the project called Itsasculture, which is an offshore aquaculture system for locating structures species producing platforms, cages and other series of elements at sea is under development.

In this regard, Mendiola explained: "Currently there are no areas available for the installation of conventional cages. Another detail that affects the development of this activity is the strongly carnivorous character that tuna species have and therefore, their need to feed every day or very often."

In addition, he stressed that the strong waves and currents of the Basque coasts added to the change in seawater temperature from season to season, "determine the ability to efficiently maintain, feed or grow these fish in open sea areas."

By Analia Murias



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