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Aquaculture is the farming of fish, shellfish and other aquatic organisms.

This page sets out:

  • background information
  • our position on aquaculture
  • recent, current and upcoming activities


In a more populous world, greater diversity of the use of the sea is both necessary and inevitable. The contribution of fishing is diminishing and aquaculture is now the most rapidly expanding part of the livestock sector. In 2012 world aquaculture was predicted to exceed capture fisheries as a food source for the first time. Globally over one billion people depend on aquaculture as a primary source of dietary protein, which requires little energy input to produce and generates low levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

In the UK farmed fish and shellfish are a growing component of food supplies, and the government recommendation is for twice weekly consumption (particularly of oily fish) as part of a healthy and nutritious diet.

The farm gate value in the UK is growing and at over £600M per year (mainly salmon, farmed in Scotland) now represents around one third of the scale of the cattle industry. The aquaculture industry is of interest to the UK government and devolved administrations, with recognised potential for economic growth not only in the UK but also exploiting UK science in global markets.

Successful and sustainable development of aquaculture, including the farming of new species, managing pests and diseases and meeting other challenges, requires strong underpinning fundamental bioscience. We have long been a funder of research related to aquaculture, although this has been on a smaller scale than research related to food production from other animals. Much of the research has been on diseases and pests relevant to the salmon industry.

We recognise that research in aquaculture is an investment priority if we are to help deliver the strategic objectives of the Global Food Security (GFS) programme. Issue four of the GFS Insight online publication is about the UK aquaculture industry (see external links).

Position statement

The position statement (September 2014) summarises our interests, priorities and high-level plans in relation to aquaculture.

BBSRC position statement (PDF 72KB)

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The position statement was developed following internal review of previous and planned BBSRC activities.

Our current and planned activities

We have a range of current and planned activities related to aquaculture, developed closely with NERC, other research funding organisations and the academic and industry communities, with the aim of supporting a vibrant UK research community across the range of BBSRC interests and delivering against a key GFS priority.

2013-2015 Aquaculture Knowledge Exchange Fellow

In 2013, together with NERC and Sainsbury's, we funded an Aquaculture Knowledge Exchange Fellow. The KE Fellowship looks to generate impact from BBSRC and NERC funded research in aquaculture potentially making an important contribution to economic growth and quality of life.

Activities will include:

  • creating a database of expertise and contacts in UK aquaculture,
  • mapping BBSRC and NERC research against industry needs,
  • reporting on industry research challenges in the aquatic food supply chain
  • supporting the development of a BBSRC-NERC industry-academia collaborative initiative.

For more information email:

2014 joint BBSRC-NERC research funding call

Also with NERC, we have been working together to develop research funding initiatives in aquaculture, starting with a joint capacity building call for pilot projects addressing BBSRC and NERC priorities. This was launched in September 2014. £4.96M was invested in 21 projects​ (see our joint BBSRC-NERC call webpage in related links).

2014-2015 International

BBSRC, DFID and DBT/ India are developing a joint activity in aquaculture through the Global Research Partnership. Indian research funders and academics attended our workshop in March 2014. Together, we ran a sand-pit style workshop in February 2015 in India. Attendance will be based on expressions of interest for which the call will open in late 2014.

2014-2015 Global Food Security: Public dialogue

One under-explored area of research is the public perception of, and attitude to, the aquaculture industry. To help address this and other food security areas, the Global Food Security Programme will be exploring the possibility of setting up a 'virtual' public panel.

2014-2015 Working with industry

BBSRC and NERC are currently reviewing the aquaculture sector's research needs to see what industry-academic collaborative tools or activities could support that need. In March 2015, BBSRC and NERC brought breeders, producers, processors, diagnostics and vaccine developers and retailers across the finfish and shellfish sectors together with a small number of academic experts to discuss industry priorities. The workshop report is available in the downloads section above.