Making space for shellfish farming along the Adriatic coast.
This work focuses on the selection of new areas for shellfish farming along the coast of the Northern Adriatic Sea (Italy). Shellfish site suitability was assessed by means of a methodology based on Spatial Multi-Criteria Evaluation (SMCE), which provided the framework to combine mathematical models and operational oceanography products. Intermediate level criteria considered in the analysis included optimal growth conditions, environmental interactions, and socio-economic evaluation (e.g. organic carbon deposition; distance to harbour). Results showed that the whole coastal area comprised within 0 and 3 nm is highly suitable for farming of mussel, while the area comprised between 3 and 12 nm is divided between a highly suitable northern part, and a less suitable southern one. Seven different scenarios of development of shellfish aquaculture industry were explored. The introduction of a new species, and the assessment of the exposure to storm events are specific aspects taken into account in development scenarios. Results show that the degree of suitability for shellfish aquaculture in this area would not change dramatically with the introduction of oyster farming. Furthermore, results highlight that: (i) the growth potential in this area is high; (ii) the space with suitability index >0.5 increases when prioritizing the optimal growth condition criteria, and (iii) the socio-economic is the most restrictive Intermediate Level Criteria. Results were discussed by deriving general lessons concerning the use of SMCE in aquaculture space allocation, from the specific application in the Northern Adriatic Sea. Challenges and opportunities related to the proposed methodological framework, with particular reference to the use of resources provided by remote sensing and operational oceanography by means of mathematical models, were also discussed. Results can support a science-based identification of allocated zones for aquaculture in order to avoid conflicts, and promote sustainable aquaculture in the Mediterranean Sea, where the space for these activities is becoming increasingly limited.