New developments in recirculating aquaculture systems in Europe: a perspective on environmental sustainability

C.I. Martins, E.H. Eding, M.C.J. Verdegem, L.T.N. Heinsbroek, O. Schneider, J.P. Blancheton, E. Roque dÓrbcastel, J.A.J. Verreth

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639 Citations (Scopus)


The dual objective of sustainable aquaculture, i.e., to produce food while sustaining natural resources is achieved only when production systems with a minimum ecological impact are used. Recirculating aquaculture systems (RASs) provide opportunities to reduce water usage and to improve waste management and nutrient recycling. RAS makes intensive fish production compatible with environmental sustainability. This review aims to summarize the most recent developments within RAS that have contributed to the environmental sustainability of the European aquaculture sector. The review first shows the ongoing expansion of RAS production by species and country in Europe. Life cycle analysis showed that feed, fish production and waste and energy are the principal components explaining the ecological impact of RAS. Ongoing developments in RAS show two trends focusing on: (1) technical improvements within the recirculation loop and (2) recycling of nutrients through integrated farming. Both trends contributed to improvements in the environmental sustainability of RAS. Developments within the recirculation loop that are reviewed are the introduction of denitrification reactors, sludge thickening technologies and the use of ozone. New approached towards integrated systems include the incorporation of wetlands and algal controlled systems in RAS. Finally, the review identifies the key research priorities that will contribute to the future reduction of the ecological impact of RAS. Possible future breakthroughs in the fields of waste production and removal might further enhance the sustainabilty of fish production in RAS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-93
JournalAquacultural Engineering
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • life-cycle assessment
  • oreochromis-niloticus l.
  • trout oncorhynchus-mykiss
  • algal pond treatment
  • constructed wetlands
  • phosphorus removal
  • water-quality
  • nile tilapia
  • waste-water
  • coagulation/flocculation aids


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