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Aquaculture centre. (Photo: Irekia)

Basque Govt promotes two important aquaculture projects

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Thursday, November 09, 2017, 00:50 (GMT + 9)

The Department of Economic Development and Infrastructure of the Basque Government promotes the marine polygon of aquaculture production Mendexa and the production and aquaculture research hub Balura in Lemoiz.

These initiatives are carried out within the framework of the Strategic Aquaculture Plan 2014-2020, which includes the creation of terrestrial and maritime infrastructures to facilitate the implementation of industrial projects, and the RIS3 smart specialization strategy, which highlights aquaculture as one of the areas to be developed in the field of new sustainable food production systems.

The marine polygon of aquaculture production Mendexa is located in front of the town of Mendexa, in the zone of the Biscayan coast between Lekeitio and Ondarroa. It is an area declared by the Basque Government as of special interest for marine crops, which has a total area of ​​556 hectares. In the first phase, 290 hectares have been marked out, of which 214 will be destined for production.

Prior to this declaration, the Directorate of Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Department of Economic Development and Infrastructure and the technological centre AZTI developed research projects to determine the technical and economic viability of producing molluscs with submerged long-lines at different depths, obtaining good results for the production of molluscs such as mussels and oysters.

In the first half of the year, the Directorate of Fisheries and Aquaculture opened the deadline for the application for concessions for production in that area, with the companies Matxitxako Moluskoak, Angulas Aguinaga and Rinamar (Galicia). The three companies requested the occupation of 100 per cent of the polygon.

The first company to be installed will be Matxitxako Moluskoak, a company owned by various partners in the Basque fishing sector such as Arrankoba, Itsaskorda, associations of Lekeitio and Ondarroa, Federation of Assocations of Gipuzkoa (OPEGUI) and AZTI.

Matxitxako Moluskoak, which plans to produce 1,000 tons of mussel with an installation of 40 long-lines, has already presented the industrial project and the design of facilities, and the granting of a permit is pending from the General Directorate of Coasts for the implementation of the water and start-up of the facilities.

AZTI stresses that aquaculture is seen as a future opportunity to produce more fish, generate new economic activity and employment, for which the Basque Government is also promoting the creation of an aquaculture production and research centre that will be able to adapt the old aquaculture facilities of the Lemoiz nuclear power plant for use in aquaculture.

In a study conducted by AZTI on the technical and economic feasibility of production of several species (shrimp, prawn, sole, turbot, salmon and trout salmon, among others), with recirculation technology, it has been proved that the reconversion is feasible and viable of said facilities for aquaculture use.

The infrastructure has water intakes and enough space for several companies to install and produce different species with high market demand. The most interesting model for the development of the polygon is mixed, combining aquaculture production with multi-sector technological innovation.

Balura aquaculture production hub is an opportunity to attract and promote innovation and investment through interaction with local, national and European R&D+i networks.

The contacts made with potential investors reveal a high interest to develop future investment projects in the hub. It is expected that the works and permits necessary for the hub to be fully operational for aquaculture production will last for a period of four to six years, and that the occupation of the park at full capacity will be in approximately nine years. Depending on the aquaculture park occupation degree, between 350 and 550 jobs could be generated.

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