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PerformFISH: A new era of consumer-driven development in Mediterranean aquaculture

PerformFISH is a €7 million European Commission-funded project with the aim of exploring and tackling the underlying causes behind the stagnation of the Mediterranean Marine Fish Farming (MMFF) sector, as this analysis by Katerina Moutou, Associate Professor at University of Thessaly reveals

By Katerina Moutou

PerformFISH addresses aquaculture challenges for sea bass and sea bream in the Mediterranean. PerformFISH focuses on developing consumer-driven aquaculture production by integrating innovative approaches that can help ensure European sea bream and sea bass aquaculture businesses are sustainable and competitive.

The farming of sea bass and sea bream is an important sector in the Mediterranean, contributing significantly to wealth and job creation in remote and coastal areas. Sea bream and sea bass are by volume the third (36.4%) and fourth (28.15%) most farmed fish species in the European Union (EU) and their collective value (€1.04 million) surpasses that of salmon (€0.78 million), trout (€0.55 million) or mussel farming (€0.49 million). However, in recent years there has been growing concern over the lack of growth and improvement in Mediterranean marine fish farming.

PerformFISH has received €7 million in funding from the European Commission to improve the competitiveness of Mediterranean aquaculture by overcoming biological, technical and operational issues with innovative, cost-effective, integrated solutions while addressing social and environmental responsibility. PerformFISH aims to support the economic competitiveness of fish farms in the region by helping them operate sustainably, as well as in a socially and culturally responsible manner.

PerformFISH is coordinated by the University of Thessaly, Greece and its consortium brings together 28 partners from 10 different countries, encompassing a wide range of technical expertise and know-how in the Mediterranean aquaculture area.

Dr Katerina Moutou, PerformFISH Coordinator, of the University of Thessaly (Greece), says: PerformFISH is an important and timely project for the sector as solutions are needed to tackle some of the underlying causes behind the current stagnation of the Mediterranean marine fish farming sector. We have brought together leading researchers and industry across Europe to co-design this innovative project to directly address the needs of the sector. This research-industry collaboration is truly unique and it is very exciting to see what we can achieve working together.

The technical research of PerformFISH focuses on generating knowledge and demonstrable solutions for key fish-farming components, including selective breeding, juvenile quality, health, welfare, feeds and feeding technology. Aquaculture involves dynamic systems in open environments and as such, the new products and innovative practices developed will be tested in operational settings to more accurately assess the feasibility of applying the research to real farming conditions across the Mediterranean.

PerformFISH is also set to create a quantified benchmarking system to effectively track and evaluate key drivers of Mediterranean marine fish farming performance. The identification of Key Performance Indicators, which have been widely adopted by the entire Mediterranean aquaculture sector, is pivotal in stepping into a new era of informed solutions supported by the collective intelligence of the sector. Ultimately, PerformFISH will develop a revised code of conduct to implement good practices and effectively communicate them to raise consumer awareness and advocate social and environmental responsibility

Consumers have a central role in PerformFISH. The project has been designed to bridge the gap between consumer demand and product design, complemented with product certification and marketing strategies to drive consumer “confidence in culture”. In addition, the consumer knowledge gained from their experience and expectations is an indispensable part of the “co-creation” marketing concept; an innovative process based on active collaboration with consumers. In this respect, consumers are a valuable asset in constructing a generic branding framework for a “Made in EU” product label to accommodate the standards of product quality, and environmental and social responsibility for the European sea bass and sea bream industry.

PerformFISH has the direct support and endorsement of the industry, with producers’ associations from Greece, Spain, Italy, France and Croatia directly involved as partners in the project. These associations, through their membership, represent 92.8% of all sea bream and sea bass production in the EU.

The project’s holistic approach will ensure that Mediterranean marine fish farming matures into a modern dynamic sector, highly appreciated by consumers and society for providing safe and healthy food with a low ecological footprint, and employment and trade in rural and peripheral regions.

For further information please visit www.performfish.eu

Notes
The PerformFISH project will run until April 2022 with an overall budget of €7.045 million. The full title of the project is “PerformFISH – Consumer Driven Production: Integrating Innovative Approaches for Competitive and Sustainable Performance across the Mediterranean Aquaculture Value Chain”. It is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 funding programme, grant number 727610. This article reflects the views only of the author(s) and the EU cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

PerformFISH is coordinated by the University of Thessaly (UTH). The main mission of UTH is the promotion of scientific knowledge through research and the contribution to the cultural and economic development of the local community and the wider society. UTH has acted as a partner and coordinated several EU funded projects in the framework of RFSR, FP7, INTERREG, MED, LIFE, LLP, Horizon 2020 in addition to several international projects funded by Institutions outside EU.
Source: https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/perform-fish-project/52577/

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