This study has assessed the current status of European marine-based IMTA and the major impediments to wider IMTA adoption by describing for the first time at such a large spatial coverage, the opinions of farmers and scientists with experience on IMTA.
Thirty-Four people with an average of 74.7 months of experience in IMTA from 12 countries in Europe, answered to a by-phone questionnaire, based on some open-ended questions, structured into three parts: the first part aimed to collect personal information and the location(s) of their IMTA practices; the second part consisted of questions regarding the IMTA application (e.g. the species cultivated, reasons for IMTA application, bottlenecks faced and support received); the third part evaluated the current and future perceptions of farmers/scientists on the IMTA level.
The most used generative species are European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax), Gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata) and Salmo salar. As extractive species, a lot of organisms are used, but only the brown algae (Alaria esculenta and Saccharina latissima), mussels (Mytilus edulis) and scallop (Aequipecten opercularis) are cultured at a commercial level. The major drivers behind the IMTA adoption are the mitigation of nitrogen waste, research of suitable species and enhanced production. EU, national or regional scheme/instrument are used from respondents for the implementation of the IMTA experiments and practices; in particular, respondents from Norway, Denmark and Spain received national financial support on at least one occasion. The major bottlenecks/obstacles faced during IMTA implementation and operation are in the fields of biological (e.g. lack of available seed, lack of knowledge and biofouling that negative interact with culturing processes), environmental, legislative (e.g. financial support from the governments), market (e.g. uncertain profitability) and operational issues such as inadequate technology and lack of infrastructure. Lastly, the largest part of respondents (26%) believe that there is a high potential for IMTA in Europe. However, the most often reported-challenge to overcome for the future development of the IMTA is related to economic and legislation issues, according to the needs of the different regions.
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