EU Project Seeks to Prevent Losses from Fish Farms

Farmed CodScientists from the Marine Institute in Galway and Newport are playing a key role in “PREVENT ESCAPE” - a major international project aimed at reducing the escape of farmed fish and their impact on wild stocks.

The project, which involves eleven partners from Norway, Greece, Spain, Malta, Scotland and Ireland, began in April this year and will run until 2012. It is led by the Norwegian institute for fisheries and Aquaculture SINTEF and is funded under the European 7th Framework Programme.  

Dr Dave Jackson of the Marine Institute, who is heading up the project’s work package aimed at assessing the causes of escape incidents, said that. “Losses due to escapes from fish farms are of immediate concern to the farmers themselves, who are as keen as anyone to find new technologies and ways of working that will reduce escapes to an absolute minimum.”  

Escapes have been reported for almost all major species currently farmed across Europe, including Atlantic salmon, sea bream, sea bass, Atlantic cod and rainbow trout. They can occur due to break down of net cages during storms, to wear and tear, to damage caused by large predators and to operational accidents leading to spills of fish during transport and transfer.  

“By carefully studying sea-cages and their immediate surrounding areas, we aim to assess both the technical and operational causes of fish farm escapes,” says Dr Jackson. “We will also try and find out what pre-disposes certain species of fish towards escaping and document the way fish disperse after escape so as to develop and test ways of recapturing them. The results of all this work will also be used to improve the equipment used in fish farming and the way it is operated, so as to minimise the chances of escapes into the future.”  

The Marine Institute is leading the MAP work package of the PREVENT ESCAPE project assessing the technical and operational causes of escapes.

The objectives of the work package are:  

  • Consult with industry and relevant agencies through a confidential questionnaire and follow up interviews to gather information on methodologies and technologies currently used in on growing finfish in the marine environment
  • Gather available existing information on the extent, size and knowledge of the causes of escapes
  • Conduct detailed assessments of the explicit technical or operational causes of escapes at sea-cage fish farms throughout Europe by direct assessment of known escape events at industrial fish farms
  • Establish the total economic cost of escape events through a cost evaluation
  • Compile a final report and disseminate results to industry, relevant agencies and the EU.  

In order to complete these objectives it will be vital that a good working relationship be established between the project partners and the fin fish producers.  

Other work packages in the PREVENT ESCAPE project will look at the behaviour of fish after they have escaped, the escape of fertilised eggs from fish farms, recapture technologies, improved operational procedures and improved fish farming technology.

Full details of the PREVENT ESCAPE project can be found at: