Trials with cultivating bathing sponges near the net cages of Seawave Fisheries Ltd fish farm in Cyprus have started.
These sponge trials are the last of a series of experiments where filter feeder marine invertebrates and detritivores were cultivated around a fish farm at south Cyprus.
We have so far experimented with mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis), oysters (Ostrea edulis), sea urchins (Paracentrotus lividus), abalone (Haliotis tuberculata) and blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus).
These experiments funded by the European FP7 project ‘IDREEM‘ aim to demonstrate the concept of Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA). This technology involves the integrated cultivation of ‘extractive’ commercial species from different trophic levels with sea bream and sea bass fish.
Although the classical IMTA combination of finfish with filter feeding bivalves that assimilate particulate organic effluents and macroalgae that absorb dissolved nutrients may work well in eutrophic areas, it is not sustainable in warm, oligotrophic Mediterranean sites. IMTA is at early commercial scales in northern European countries but it is far from there in most Mediterranean regions where sea bream and sea bass are the dominant cultured species. Environmental and technical challenges exist in these warm and oligotrophic waters, such as the absence of hatcheries to produce commercial quantities of the local extractive species needed for use in IMTA systems with low natural background productivity.
Sponges and a few others seem to have much potential to be used in IMTA systems, in the eastern Mediterranean environment.