Aquaculture and animal welfare

European aquaculture is increasingly recognized as a strategic and fundamental resource for providing food of high nutritional value and contributing to the food needs of European citizens according to sustainable farming practices.In this context, shellfish farming i.e. mussels, clams and oysters production represents a strategic sector that over the years consolidated production and markets. This aquaculture sector is considered environmentally friendly since shellfish farming does not require feed and uses the environmental trophic resources.

However, in recent years, the productions in the Mediterranean Sea have not significantly increased while the farming techniques have not particularly evolved. While in other agri-food sectors the principles of industry 4.0 have led to the development of "precision farming" systems that allow the optimization of production and help farmers to make optimal choices through predictive and management systems, shellfish farming does not yet seem to have fully accepted this challenge.

Another critical aspect is that the production of mussels involves the use of non-biodegradable plastic socks. On the other hand, it seems that molluscs can contribute through biofiltration processes to the reduction of microplastics in the sea. Lastly, as molluscs are produced in the sea, any environmental change can alter the farming conditions and affect the welfare and growth performance of the animals. This direct contact with the natural environment more exposes this type of farming to climate change.

It is therefore necessary to develop new knowledge and technologies to be applied to the shellfish sector, in order to increase production and productivity in the production sector. Research activities can provide new production standards and innovative tools capable of increasing the sustainability, resilience, productivity and production of the sector.