General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean - GFCM

The first restorative aquaculture centre in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea aims to reshape the sector in the region


The unique innovation and capacity building centre in La Rapita, Spain, brought by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean and the Departament d’Acció Climàtica, Alimentació i Agenda Rural, will highlight the importance of restorative aquaculture for Blue Transformation in the region.

Restorative aquaculture in the Mediterranean and Black Sea region was in the spotlight today with the announcement of the opening of the first Mediterranean Restorative Aquaculture Centre in La Rapita, Catalonia, Spain. Due to open by the end of 2024, this innovation and capacity-building centre will be the first of its kind in the region. The centre was presented yesterday at a special workshop in the context of the Global Seafood Expo in Barcelona, Spain, and is the result of the collaboration between the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Generalitat de Catalunya, Departament d’Acció Climàtica, Alimentació i Agenda Rural (DACC), with the support and infrastructures provided by the Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology (IRTA) 

Houssam Hamza, Aquaculture Officer presenting at Global Seafood Expo ©GFCM

Aquaculture is an important driver for food security, employment and economic development. Practices known as restorative aquaculture hold strategic importance as a tool to positively affect ecosystems services, offering ecological benefits, creating opportunities for local communities and addressing climate change through adaptation and mitigation strategies. A diverse range of activities fall under its umbrella, including the production of algae, sea urchin farming and roe enhancement, bivalve farming, integrated multitrophic aquaculture systems and restocking. 

Combining traditional knowledge with advanced technologies, the Mediterranean Restorative Aquaculture Centre aims to reshape the aquaculture sector, thus ensuring the long-term viability of aquatic ecosystems and the communities relying on them. It will provide state-of-the-art facilities and expertise for knowledge exchange, research and development of sustainable aquaculture practices.  

Sea urchin restocking. ©GFCM/Paola Ortolani

More specifically, the Mediterranean Restorative Aquaculture Centre will enable innovation and capacity building in the region on the farming of species such as macroalgae, sea urchins, bivalves and holothurians, as well as on integrated multi-trophic aquaculture systems and adaptation to climate change. Furthermore, this initiative will facilitate sustainable aquaculture development among producers and interested companies by fostering the exchange of technical guidance, expertise, and experiences among stakeholders in the Mediterranean region. It will contribute to developing knowledge and capacity for restorative aquaculture and promoting innovation and the ecosystem services of the sector among relevant stakeholders. 

We are honoured to host the Mediterranean Restorative Aquaculture Centre, given the commitment of the Generalitat de Catalunya to promote the sustainable development of aquaculture and the strengthening of ecosystem services in the Mediterranean”, said Sergi Tudela, Director General of the Direcció General de Política Marítima i Pesca Sostenible at DACC. “The opening of Mediterranean Restorative Aquaculture Centre as an innovation and capacity-building centre is a very important milestone for our region. Within the framework of the GFCM 2030 Strategy, it aims at increasing and sharing knowledge on aquaculture resilience in the face of climate change,” added Miguel Bernal, GFCM Executive secretary. 

An example of restorative aquaculture activity, already planned for the facility, is macroalgae culture, which is underdeveloped in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean Restorative Aquaculture Centre will be able to assist towards regenerating the marine environment through the ecosystem benefits it provides, as well as promote the diversification of the aquaculture sector and its adaptation to climate change. 

Restorative aquaculture aligns with the Blue Transformation vision of FAO, which emphasizes the potential for intensifying and expanding aquaculture production while also generating positive impacts for both the environment and society. In 2023, the GFCM adopted a resolution on climate-resilient aquaculture, which urges the countries of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea to take action towards the development of a regional climate adaption plan for aquaculture. By adopting restorative practices, aquaculture operations can contribute to the regeneration of aquatic ecosystems and adaptation to climate change, mitigate environmental impacts, and enhance the resilience of farmed aquatic species. Furthermore, restorative aquaculture practices can create opportunities for local communities, including employment, income generation and improved food security, thus contributing to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 14 “Life below water”, SDG 8 “Decent work and economic growth” and SDG 2 “Zero hunger”. 

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RTVE: Cristóbal Aguilera from IRTA talks about the first restorative aquaculture centre in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea which the GFCM launched in La Ràpita, Spain, to reshape the sector in the region.”

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