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Aquaculture and tourism

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Conflict Stories

Story 1: How a conflict between aquaculture and tourism was tackled with the help of multi-criteria analysis (Croatia)
Aquaculture and tourism are both important industries in Croatia. In Zadar County, the relationship between aquaculture and tourism had become problematic. Negative attitudes to aquaculture had grown among local communities and tourists on account of several incidents.

Story 2: How conflicts between recreation and oyster farming were resolved by means of risk control measures in Whitstable, England
Whitstable on the north-east Kent coast (England) is a popular seaside resort with a high density of holiday makers and recreational water space users. It is also a world-famous area for traditional oyster farming. In the past couple of years members of the public in Whitstable had become concerned that oyster farm activities posed risks to recreational users.

Story 3:  Aquaculture legislation in Turkey
Marine aquaculture began in Turkey in 1985 with the breeding of sea bream and sea bass in closed and sheltered bays using traditional, small size wooden cages. Soon after its establishment problems arose on the Aegean and Mediterranean coast; especially coastal sectors such as tourism, environmental protection and recreation were concerned.

Story 4: Swimming with caged tuna in Spain
In the Catalunia and Murcia regions in Spain, a unique and innovative system has been developed to farm bluefin tuna. This aquaculture operation is also being used as a tourist attraction, more specifically, to offer the opportunity to swim with the tuna in the open ocean cages.

Story 5: Zoning as a means of conflict prevention in the Zadar County Spatial Plan
The Spatial Plan of Zadar County is an integrated land and sea use plan that uses spatial policy to strategically guide aquaculture development. The plan’s zoning scheme either prioritises aquaculture over other maritime uses, or defines it as supplementary, in other words secondary to other uses including tourism.

Conflicting elements

Direct competition between these sectors can arise on account of similar spatial requirements and environmental impacts. Conflicts are more likely in places where aquaculture is not a traditional small-scale sector or has intensified over the years.

  • Visual impact of aquaculture sites. Sea-cage fish farms or mussel rafts typically have large surface structures that impact on the aesthetics of seascapes viewed from the shore. Supporting facilities on land may also have an effect on the coastal landscape, especially if they are close to resorts or tourist beaches.
  • Spatial restrictions for recreational fishing and boating. Spatial restrictions are usually in place around fish farms and cages, amounting to much larger non-anchoring areas than the farms themselves.
  • Decreased access to safe anchorage areas. Safe anchorage areas for recreational boaters are often also suitable sites for aquaculture. Routes to these places of refuge are not always safeguarded.
  • Accidental damage to boats and aquaculture installations. Underwater obstructions can be a hazard to craft that would otherwise be able to pass between a fish farm and the shore. A collision not only affects the tourists, but also damages the fish farm, with all possible consequences to both sides.
  • Impact of aquaculture on water quality. Feeding caged fish introduces a large source of nutrients to coastal areas which can lead to eutrophication. This eventually leads to increased algae growth, including toxic species of algae, rendering the water less suitable for certain recreational activities.
  • Impact of waste on aquaculture. Urban development and the disposal of untreated sewage from vessels can affect aquaculture, especially shellfish beds.

Aquaculture-tourism conflicts are generally nearshore conflicts as both activities require sheltered locations located relatively close to the coast. This may change in the future when aquaculture operations become larger and are able to move into deeper waters further offshore.

Drivers of conflict

Policy development for tourism is usually delegated to the regional and local level and rarely carried out at the national level. An important driver of conflict is the diversity of the sector and the variety of needs associated with different types of tourism. Presently, there is a tendency towards diversification, meaning more sustainable forms tourism are emerging. Experience-based tourism with focus on scenic, cultural and environmental assets, local traditions and produce attracts more affluent and discerning types of tourists.

Aquaculture is also one of the Blue Growth sectors predicted to keep growing in the future. In 2013 the European Commission published Strategic Guidelines presenting common priorities and general objectives at EU level. On a more local level, aquaculture can be a major employer in coastal communities, especially in more remote coastal regions; many such regions and communities therefore actively seek investment in the aquaculture industry.

In some countries, synergies have been found with tourism (e.g. “Aquiturismo” in Italy or the “Sea Garden” concepts in Denmark). In areas where “sustainable” forms of aquaculture are practised, these can provide good-quality seafood to tourists, improving the area’s attraction. However, in places where aquaculture is not a traditional sector or has been intensifying throughout the years, conflicts with tourism are likely to become more eminent.