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Aquaculture is the farming of fish, shellfish and other aquatic organisms.


In a more populous world, greater diversity of the use of the sea is both necessary and inevitable. The contribution of fishing is diminishing and aquaculture is now the most rapidly expanding part of the livestock sector. In 2012 world aquaculture was predicted to exceed capture fisheries as a food source for the first time. Globally over one billion people depend on aquaculture as a primary source of dietary protein, which requires little energy input to produce and generates low levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

In the UK farmed fish and shellfish are a growing component of food supplies, and the government recommendation is for twice weekly consumption (particularly of oily fish) as part of a healthy and nutritious diet.

The farm gate value in the UK is growing and at over £600 million per year (mainly salmon, farmed in Scotland) now represents around one third of the scale of the cattle industry. The aquaculture industry is of interest to the UK government and devolved administrations, with recognised potential for economic growth not only in the UK but also exploiting UK science in global markets.

Successful and sustainable development of aquaculture, including the farming of new species, managing pests and diseases and meeting other challenges, requires strong underpinning fundamental bioscience. We have long been a funder of research related to aquaculture, although this has been on a smaller scale than research related to food production from other animals. Much of the research has been on diseases and pests relevant to the salmon industry.

We recognise that research in aquaculture is an investment priority if we are to help deliver the strategic objectives of the Global Food Security (GFS) programme. Issue four of the GFS Insight online publication is about the UK aquaculture industry (see external links).

Position statement

The below position statement (September 2014) summarises our interests, priorities and high-level plans in relation to aquaculture.

The position statement was developed following internal review of previous and planned BBSRC activities.

BBSRC corporate position statement on aquaculture (PDF 72KB)

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Our activities in aquaculture

We have a range of current and planned activities related to aquaculture, developed closely with NERC, other research funding organisations and the academic and industry communities, with the aim of supporting a vibrant UK research community across the range of BBSRC interests and delivering against a key GFS priority.

2015-2021 Working with industry: UK Aquaculture Initiative

BBSRC and NERC have reviewed the aquaculture sector's research needs to see what industry-academic collaborative tools or activities could support that need. In March 2015, BBSRC and NERC brought breeders, producers, processors, diagnostics and vaccine developers and retailers across the finfish and shellfish sectors together with a small number of academic experts to discuss industry priorities. The workshop report is available in the downloads section above.

BBSRC and NERC now run a joint UK Aquaculture Initiative which supports innovation projects and the Aquaculture Research Collaborative Hub UK (ARCH-UK). A new call for collaborative research and innovation projects will launch on 17 November 2017 for projects to start in October 2018.

2013-2015: Aquaculture Knowledge Exchange Fellow

In 2013, together with NERC and Sainsbury's, we funded an Aquaculture Knowledge Exchange Fellow. The KE Fellowship looked to generate impact from BBSRC- and NERC-funded research in aquaculture potentially making an important contribution to economic growth and quality of life.

Activities included:

  • creating a database of expertise and contacts in UK aquaculture
  • mapping BBSRC and NERC research against industry needs
  • reporting on industry research challenges in the aquatic food supply chain
  • supporting the development of a BBSRC-NERC industry-academia collaborative initiative.

For more information email:

2014: Joint BBSRC-NERC research funding call

Also with NERC, we have been working together to develop research funding initiatives in aquaculture, starting with a joint capacity building call for pilot projects addressing BBSRC and NERC priorities. This was launched in September 2014. £4.96 million was invested in 21 projects.

2014-2015: International

BBSRC, DFID (now the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO)) and DBT/India developed a joint activity in aquaculture through the Global Research Partnership. Indian research funders and academics attended our workshop in March 2014. Together, we ran a sandpit style workshop in February 2015 in India.


Bioscience for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Sector