Fish aquaculture is a thriving economic sector in Greece, which is expected to double its size until 2030 by occupying a substantial part of the country’s extended coastline. Aquaculture-related pressures to the natural coastal habitats have been acknowledged and investigated, but few actions have been proposed towards their mitigation, apart from the enforcement of restrictive regulations. Sponges emerge as ideal candidates for integrated aquaculture in fish farms, since they harbour high biotechnological potential apart from their remediation capacity.
The proposed multidisciplinary project SPINAQUA (“Sponges in integrated aquaculture systems: Towards the delivery of better seawater quality and marine products of high added-value”) aims to investigate the applicability of “sponge-driven bioremediation/bioproduction” concept in fish aquaculture. To this end, it adopts an integrated approach comprising the selection of suitable sponge species for integrated aquaculture, the cultivation of these species nearby an operating fish farm, as well as the evaluation of their biotechnological potential in the laboratory. Through the adoption of state-of-the-art research methodologies, it aspires to provide a sound baseline to support the development of future bioremediation applications in an efficient, productive and environmentally sustainable manner. In the long run, it will help deliver a competitive advantage to Greek aquaculture enterprises and “cleaner” seas to the people.
Four main research directions are followed to accomplish the objectives of SPINAQUA: (a) selection of prominent native species for cultivation through broad-scale assessments of local sponge biodiversity; (b) setup of an experimental integrated multi-species sponge culture and monitoring of rearing performance for 24 months; (c) evaluation of the bioremediation capacity of candidate sponges through controlled laboratory experiments involving typical aquaculture biological and chemical pollutants, and (d) investigation of the valorisation potential of candidate sponges through the targeted analysis of known bioactive metabolites and the assessment of bioactivity in crude sponge extracts.
Supporting facilities and infrastructure
The proposed research will be conducted in the Institute of Marine Biology, Biotechnology and Aquaculture (IMBBC) of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), which will provide full access to key infrastructure for the implementation of SPINAQUA: (a) a fully operational experimental fish farm located in Crete; (b) the Laboratory of Bioanalysis and Biotechnology; (c) a system of experimental aquaria optimized for marine invertebrates; (d) the Underwater Biotechnological Park of Crete, a facility with an operating open sea sponge culture; and (e) the Diving Support Unit of HCMR Crete.
The SPINAQUA project is supported by the General Secretariat of Research and Technology (GSRT) and the Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (HFRI) under the “1st Call for H.F.R.I. Research Projects for the support of Post-doctoral Researchers”. The project was submitted in the field of Natural Sciences (Project ID: 239) and it will receive a total budget of 349,910 € for 3 years (2019 – 2022).