Optimizing the use of open and sub-meter (VHR) resolution satellite data to generate an aquaculture atlas


BlueBRIDGE “Building Research environments fostering Innovation, Decision making, Governance and Education to support Blue growth”, is a consortium which brings together scientists, practitioners and experts on various sectors: Virtual Research Environments (VREs) and e-Infrastructures; computer science; marine, environmental, aquaculture and fisheries science and economy. The Consortium has implemented a tool to generate Aquaculture Atlas, which has been tested in three countries: Greece, Malta and Indonesia. For Greece and Malta use cases, the aim was to create an inventory of fish farms using in input existing information available at FAO (NASO database) and Very High Resolution (VHR) Earth Observation (EO) data required to detect relatively small aquaculture structures (e.g. cages with a diameter of 10 metres).

Application in MSP: 
Unknown effect
Type of Issue: 
Coexistence of uses
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 

Questions this practice may help answer

  • How can VHR satellite data be used to identify aquaculture sites?
  • How can collaborative web-based research environments support development of tools targeted to specific maritime sectors (specifically fishery and aquaculture)?

Implementation Context

Aquaculture is the fastest growing animal food production sector in the world with continuously and rapid increase global production. However, the environment in which the aquaculture companies operate is highly competitive. Aquaculture producers have to face specific challenges concerning the improvement of the performance of their companies in terms of cost, feed conversion, growth rate and mortality. At the same time, growth of the sector should be sustainable and the impact of aquaculture on the environment should then be carefully monitored. A prerequisite for this monitoring is the proper identification and location of aquaculture sites. 

The BlueBRIDGE consortium creates tailored data management services for the aquaculture and fishery sectors through collaborative web-based research environments, the so called Virtual Research Environments (VREs). VREs are web-based systems that can be accessed on-demand through a simple user interface. They provide users from different disciplines, institutions or even countries, with secure access to collaborative tools, services, data and computational facilities meeting their specific needs. Within this context, BlueBRIDGE has implemented a tool to generate Aquaculture Atlas and has tested it in three countries: Greece, Malta and Indonesia.

Aspects / Objectives 

The testing application of the tool in Greece and Malta aimed at creating an inventory of fish farms based on the use of information available at FAO (NASO database) as well as of very high resolution (VHR) Earth Observation (EO) data required to detect relatively small aquaculture structures (e.g. cages with a diameter of 10 metres). For the Indonesian use case, the aim was to provide a preliminary regional mapping of the aquaculture areas (shrimp ponds) in South Sulawesi and to discriminate them from other wet coastal areas. 


Use of remote sensing data and specifically of VHR ones is a key component of the BlueBRIDGE tool. To optimize the use of open and VHR satellite data the following approaches have been implemented:

  • Exploiting Copernicus and other relevant Earth Observation (EO) data. Copernicus data can be used for identification and discrimination of large aquaculture features in remote coastal areas; for example in BlueBRIDGE, Copernicus data have been used to discriminate rice paddies and shrimp ponds in Indonesia. Copernicus data can be displayed as ancillary information when the resolution is not sufficient to detect systematically small aquaculture features (this data has been used to generate the Greek Aquaculture Atlas).
  • Avoiding duplication of facilities and data storage. The separation of the process between two infrastructures - one for image processing and data store and a second for aquaculture product storage and further exploitation by users or other VREs - avoids duplication of image storage and processing facilities.
  • Using existing, proven, validated and standard features: The tool relies on existing infrastructure services that serve multiple communities. All elements used aim to provide re-usable and adaptable services that can also serve other purposes. Examples include a single web-viewer for very different products.

Main Outputs / Results

Satellite data are used as input to generate geospatial information about aquaculture, i.e. spatial inventories of aquaculture farming systems. The main result of the application of the tool is therefore an Aquaculture Atlas, compliant with NASO standards, for the studied area. Dedicated Geographic Information Systems can be integrated with the Atlas to ease the analysis of targeted operators.

However, the BlueBRIDGE web-site stresses that for future operations further consideration is needed to guide the process from the research context and maturity level (proof of concept through three use cases) achieved in BlueBRIDGE, to operational provision of data to real communities. This is being refined with FAO leading the development of a sustainable business model.


The Greek and Malta use cases are replicable in countries of a similar size. According to the tool developers the required effort is around 8 man-days plus VHR license cost. The Indonesian use case instead requires around 30 man-days as there are less input data available, and it needs more time for algorithm tuning and validation.

Contact Person


Responsible Entity 

Blue Bridge - Building Research environments fostering Innovation, Decision making, Governance and Education to support Blue growth

Costs / Funding Source

BlueBRIDGE receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 675680