First AQUA-LIT results are out!

First results of AQUA-LIT, gathered along the first months of the project, have been published! The knowledge acquired will form the base for the AQUA-LIT Learning Labs which will focus on identifying tangible solutions and tools for tackling marine litter.

Have a look to the Deliverables just published on AQUA-LIT website!

The results show the current aquaculture practises present in the three different European sea basins, the marine aquaculture litter items and the quantities found on European beaches and seas.  In addition, an overview was set up of the existing national, regional, European and global approaches and policy measures that tackle marine littering from aquaculture.

Let's have a brief summary of our findings:   


What type of aquaculture is present in each sea basins?    


  • Finfish farms

Finfish farms in the North Sea are clustered in favourable areas in the outer regions of the Greater North Sea and are mainly produced on an industrial scale. The main farmed species are the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), which is mostly produced in floating cages at sea, and the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), which is produced in floating cages in lakes or tanks in rivers.

Finfish farming in the Baltic Sea region is limited to Finland, Sweden and Denmark. Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) is the most important farmed fish species.

Finfish farming is quite abundant in the Mediterranean basin, with wide variety of production, including traditional small-scale systems especially at the Adriatic coast. The main cultivated species is the European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) produced in floating sea cages.  

  • Shellfish aquaculture

Shellfish aquaculture in the North Sea is widespread along the coasts of most North Sea countries. France and the Netherlands are the biggest producers, mainly of blue mussel (Mytilus edulis). France dominates oyster and clam cultures.

Shellfish aquaculture facilities in the Baltic Sea region are less diverse and abundant than in the North Sea. Except sites in the Western Baltic Sea, mussel farming is mainly in the experimental scale. Oyster farming is not successful due to the low saline waters, and bivalve production is absent.    

Shellfish aquaculture in the Mediterranean Sea is quite abundant. Mediterranean mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) and oysters are mainly produced in France, Italy and Spain. Bivalve molluscs, especially clams, are produced mainly in Italy.

  • Seaweed farming

Seaweed farming is still limited in the North Sea with France and Norway being the major producers. 

Few seaweed facilities are present in the Baltic Sea basin, where Denmark is the largest producer.

Seaweed production in the Mediterranean Sea basin is present mainly in France, Italy and Spain.


What type of aquaculture marine debris are usually found in the European seas and beaches?


A litter inventory was generated by a screening of the available literature and litter databases (e.g. OSPAR, HELCOM, Marine Litter Watch) and will be extended during the course of the project on the basis of discussions with stakeholders and aquaculture farmers. Currently, this list consists of 64 different items of litter, of which 19 items are unique to the aquaculture industry.

Have a look to our litter database to see in detail which kind of items have been found in European beaches and seas!


How are the litter distributed among the different sea basins?


Efforts were made to quantify the marine debris from the aquaculture sector using data from scientific publications. This provided an indication of the occurrence of certain categories of debris at a certain location, which can be used to inform stakeholders, aquaculture industry and policymakers. Sea basin maps were generated by visualising information on the geographic position of aquaculture facilities, in combination with the quantitative data of aquaculture related litter. In European waters, most aquaculture related litter is made from plastics. From these maps, it can be deduced that in many regions data is lacking.

In the North Sea, the collected aquaculture debris is mainly originating from finfish and shellfish aquaculture activities.

In the Mediterranean and Baltic Sea, primarily shellfish aquaculture related litter was collected.

The highest percentages of the mariculture related debris in relation to the total amount of debris were found on the seafloor (15%), followed by the sea surface (11%) and the beach (12%). 

Check how marine debris are distributed using our marine litter maps


What strategies, measures and actions are already available?


Marine litter is currently high on the political agenda. The global and European framework for the prevention and management of marine debris exists, but needs to be further translated into implemented tailor-made actions and measures depending on the source of marine debris. The Deliverable on ‘Available Tools and Measures’ gives an overview of the global, regional, European and national action plans and documents that contain measures to reduce or avoid marine litter from the aquaculture sector.

Following highlights and conclusions from this report will be the starting point for the discussion at the learning labs:

  • Need for more research to support the evidence base for decision making
  • Actions and measures on regional and sub-regional scales allow for a more targeted approach
  • Work with all stakeholders along the value chain to find appropriate solutions
  • Create possible synergetic benefits from jointly addressing sectors with similar litter issues