Skip to main content
European Commission logo

Suitability Maps


The objective of suitability mapping for aquaculture is to produce map(s) showing which coastal areas (marine ecosystems) - based on physical characteristics - are suitable for different aquaculture activities. Thus suitability maps can be interesting for spatial planners to scope suitable areas for aquaculture or to assess different planning options.

Dez 13

Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
Coherence with other processes:
Key words:

Questions this practice may help answer

  • Which are the relevant parameters for certain aquaculture species and which are the suitable aquaculture sites?

Implementation Context

This tool has been presented and tested in the context of the COEXIST project, which ran from 2010 to 2013. It provides a comprehensive assessment of the conflicts and synergies between fisheries, aquaculture and other activities in the coastal zone in six COEXIST case study areas.

The Suitability Maps tool is evaluated in the “Guidance of Better Integration of Aquaculture, Fisheries, and other Activities in the Coastal Zone” and is presented in the Deliverable D1.1 “Maps of Europe showing coastal areas” of the COEXIST project. 

Aspects / Objectives

The objective of suitability mapping for aquaculture is to produce map(s) of Europe showing which coastal areas (marine ecosystems) are, based on physical characteristics, suitable for different aquaculture activities. The suitability maps presented in this report show the suitability of areas for selected species, in three categories:

-  Highly suitable for the species of interest for aquaculture or
-  Moderately suitable and or
-  Not suitable. 


The suitability of areas is defined on the basis of maximum and minimum values specifically set for each species to define the range of conditions it can tolerate (outer limits). These are set for conditions that are required/necessary and advisable/recommended for reproduction and growth. The limit values for the parameters are retrieved from literature review as well as reliable websites for each of the 15 species. By applying these limits to geographical datasets on the physical characteristics of the European seas maps showing areas with suitable conditions for aquaculture of given species are produced. The tolerance/optimum limits defined are based on the following parameters:

  • Water salinity
  • Temperature
  • Water depth
  • Sediment
  • Wind
  • Water currents
  • Wave heights
  • Chlorophyll-a
  • Dissolved oxygen

15 species which are presently cultivated in European seas were selected for suitability mapping.

Main Outputs / Results

Suitability maps are produced for each species. Those maps are presented in the Deliverable D1.1.

Suitability map example

The presented suitability maps show three levels of suitability: highly, moderately and not suitable. Highly suitable areas are areas where cultivation of a given species is possible, because the main environmental conditions are within the optimum range (between the minimum and maximum limits). In moderately suitable areas some factors are not within the species’ optimum levels, but only within its tolerable range. In these areas, a modification of environmental conditions, e.g. to provide higher chlorophyll concentration, increase water temperature and/or to ensure a sufficient supply of oxygen is needed. However, to select the applicable intervention instrument a more detailed analysis of limiting factors and natural conditions is required.

The main conclusion of the study is that suitability mapping is a useful tool in spatial planning and decision-making, showing the potential of culturing species at first glance. Further research is recommended to aid in defining parameters for suitability, including information on seasonal variation, and also to refine the ranges of optimal conditions for the culture of species, such as the sixteen that are presented in this study. 


The suitability modelling is not limited to produce suitability mapping only for European Seas. In future it is possible to extend the modelling with modification and adding more parameters and data into the constructed model. 

Contact Person

Narangerel Davaasuren

IMARES (dnarangerel2004[at]gmail[dot]com)

Responsible Entity


Costs / Funding Source

Costs: unknown

Funding Source: European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7 2007-2013)