Effect of production quotas on economic and environmental values of growth rate and feed efficiency in sea cage fish farming

M. Besson*, I.J.M. de Boer, M. Vandeputte, J.A.M. van Arendonk, E. Quillet, H. Komen, J. Aubin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


In sea cage fish farming, production quotas aim to constrain the impact of fish farming on the surrounding ecosystem. It is unknown how these quotas affect economic profitability and environmental impact of genetic improvement. We combined bioeconomic modelling with life cycle assessment (LCA) to calculate the economic (EV) and environmental (ENV) values of thermal growth coefficient (TGC) and feed conversion ratio (FCR) of sea bass reared in sea cages, given four types of quota commonly used in Europe: annual production (Qprod), annual feed distributed (Qannual-feed), standing stock (Qstock), and daily feed distributed (Qdaily-feed). ENV were calculated for LCA impact categories climate change, eutrophication and acidification. ENV were expressed per ton of fish produced per year (ENV(fish)) and per farm per year (ENV(farm)). Results show that irrespective of quota used, EV of FCR as well as ENV(fish) and ENV(farm) were always positive, meaning that improving FCR increased profit and decreased environmental impacts. However, the EV and the ENV(fish) of TGC were positive only when quota was Qstock or Qdaily-feed. Moreover, the ENV(farm) of TGC was negative in Qstock and Qdaily-feed quotas, meaning that improving TGC increased the environmental impact of the farm. We conclude that Qstock quota and Qdaily-feed quota are economically favorable to a genetic improvement of TGC, a major trait for farmers. However, improving TGC increases the environmental impact of the farm. Improving FCR represents a good opportunity to balance out this increase but more information on its genetic background is needed to develop breeding programs improving FCR.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0173131
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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