Sustainable Seafood | Marine@Ugent

Sustainable Seafood

Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food production sectors globally. However, the development of this sector, together with fisheries, is often questioned as to their sustainability. Ghent University is a world leader in sustainable aquaculture research, such as hatchery technology, extractive aquaculture using e.g. seaweed and mollusks, strategies to tackle diseases and stress, as well as new sustainable technologies for integrated aquaculture in offshore windfarms.

The growth of the world population will lead to a large increase in global demand for food. We, therefore, face the challenge to increase food production in the context of a growing number of climate-related risks, competition, resource scarcity and the need to conserve the world's ecosystems.

Currently, fish accounts for about 15.7% of the animal protein daily consumed globally and fisheries has been and still is a major supplier of these proteins. Yet, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has estimated that aquaculture already ensures half of aquatic protein supply and that by 2030 it will reach 65%. This makes aquaculture one of the fastest-growing animal food production sectors.

Changes in the marine ecosystems as a result of climate change, ocean acidification and increased human activities can result in the further decline of fish stocks and overall modify the marine environment. It is now commonly accepted that fisheries should be managed based on the ecosystem approach. Ghent University research on marine ecosystem structure and functioning can hence contribute strongly to this ecosystem approach, supporting sustainable fisheries. 

Aquaculture has the potential to grow, yet it will have to solve the issue of the origin of its resources: which sources of protein and fat can support the growing aquaculture industry? On which species should the aquaculture industry focus to maximise resource efficiency? How can we solve growing disease problems as the industry intensifies? These and other issues will need to be addressed to sustain aquaculture at a global level but also to provide fresh and trustworthy products to local markets. A sustainable aquaculture can support coastal communities, diversifying their activities while alleviating fishing pressure.

Aquaculture can probably grow further by operating low in the food chain, by focussing e.g. on filter feeders in the marine environment, or at least adhere a multi-trophic approach, or through application of closed systems on land. However, even such an industry is not without its challenges. More information is needed on its impact, including its long-term ecological and social sustainability. It might also have to operate in areas designated to multiple use (e.g. wind turbine parks) or areas where necessary resources are easily available (e.g. residual heat).


We provide knowledge and expertise on topics like:

  • Circular Economy
  •  Aquaculture
  • Life cycle control
  • Histology
  • Morphology
  • Veterinary science
  • Nutrition
  • Diseases
  • Ecology, like stress ecology and food web ecology
  • Biochemical profiling of marine organisms
  • Feed
  • Packaging
  • Recycling


©picture: BIM