Most of our planet lies under its oceans, but so far offshore areas have remained unutilized for food production. Further acknowledging the resource efficiency of fish farming the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has reported that offshore fish production represents likely the only option for feeding the world’s growing and increasingly affluent population.

Other factors, such as leisure activities and vulnerable ecosystems near coastline, also keep pushing fish production towards offshore areas. A plan titled the National spatial plan for aquaculture has been drawn up in Finland, to determinate in which areas fish production is sustainable to expand; the majority of these areas locate offshore also in Baltic Sea.

The initial challenge is to find solutions to challenges posed by the offshore environment

In Finland, marine fish farming units have been so far sited in partly sheltered locations in archipelago or close to the open sea.

Special challenges are presented by winter and ice – in practice, if using similar fish farming systems like nowadays, production equipment must be returned from the offshore to the archipelago in the autumn to protect it from moving pack ice in the winter. In the Baltic Sea, waves are also denser than the ocean swell, which subjects farming equipment to a different kind of stress. Finland needs to develop fish farming solutions that are both durable, rapidly movable or submergible.

As supply distances increase for farming units, logistics become more expensive and different feeding techniques, requiring new kinds of data transfer solutions but as well material logistics, become under consideration. In new management practises in offshore farming, account must also be taken of the wellbeing of fish.

Luke is investigating where and how fish can be farmed in offshore areas

Luke is investigating where and how fish can be farmed in Finnish offshore areas from many perspectives. Research is performed in close collaboration with the Environment research institute (Syke) and environmental authorities to determinate the sustainable production volumes for offshore farms. Research is focused also on technical solutions, in here meteorological data as well as practical experience from co-operation companies farming sites is used to evaluate and test present offshore farming systems and technologies available; key part of this work involves clarifying the economic prerequisites of production. Third important role is to contribute in marine spatial planning and production licencing procedures.

Results and experiences are used by entrepreneurs, the fishery administration, the environmental authorities, land-use planners, research institutes and education. Luke is engaged in active data exchange in international projects involving researchers and entrepreneurs representing other countries.

Picture on top of the page: Markus Kankainen / Luke

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