The feasibility of offshore aquaculture and its potential for multi-use in the North Sea

Aquaculture international 24


Following the Blue Growth ambition of the European Commission, the interest in the potential of offshore is growing. This paper aimed to contribute to the discussion on the feasibility of offshore aquaculture development and its potential for multi-use with other maritime activities. A review of national and international projects forms the basis of the paper, where the Dutch North Sea is used as a case-study area. Analysis of technical, economic and ecological boundaries indicated that the potential of fish culture is limited, that seaweed cultivation is likely to gain potential when challenges related to processing will be overcome and that mussel culture has the highest potential in the near future. The North Sea is an area where many stakeholders claim space, which might set boundaries to the number of sites available for mussel culture. Competing claims are a potential source of conflict but may also lead to mutual benefits when smart combinations are sought, e.g. with wind parks, fisheries and nature conservation; especially, the possibility of combining mussel culture in or around wind parks is worthwhile to be further explored. A spatial distribution model adapted for the Dutch North Sea conditions demonstrated that offshore mussel production in wind farms can be profitable. Yet, the commercial interest for offshore development of mussel culture is still limited. Actions required to stimulate further development of the offshore mussel industry are presented for the government, the private sector, research institutes and civil society organizations.

Sea Basin(s): 
March 2016
Application in MSP: 
Unknown effect
Type of Issue: 
Coexistence of uses
Economic aspects
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Vision and aims
Analyse spatial aspects
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 
Coherence with other processes: 
Common Fisheries Policy
Renewable Energy Directive

Questions this practice may help answer:

  • What are the conditions for the development of offshore aquaculture in the North Sea?
  • What is required to further develop the offshore mussel culture in the Dutch North Sea?
  • How can multi-use support the development of offshore aquaculture in the context of the increasing demand on the sea space?

Implementation Context:

Claims on maritime space have increased, accentuated by the development of Blue Growth and the EU Green deal which have led to the development of marine renewable energy.

Aspects / Objectives:

The aim of this study is to contribute to the research on offshore aquaculture development and its potential for multi-use of the maritime space.


This research is based on the Dutch North Sea case study. Feasibilities for different types of offshore aquaculture are studied based on a review of scientific articles and information from national and international projects.

Main Outputs / Results:

This article provides insights on offshore aquaculture development based on the Dutch North Sea case study and supports future research and policy efforts on this subject. It also provides analysis on multi-use implementation.


This study focuses on the Dutch North Sea, however, it provides insights on the methodology used for the analysis of offshore aquaculture development that inspire similar approaches in other maritime areas. 

Responsible Entity:

IMARES Wageningen UR, The Netherlands

Contact person:

Henrice M. Jansen :