Aquaculture in the UK

The importance of Aquaculture

Aquaculture plays a key role in UK and worldwide food security and is the fastest growing food-producing sector in the world, growing at a rate faster than the growth of the human population.

Fish can provide an important source of nutrients including high quality animal protein that is easily digestible and of high biological value, as well as essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals so important for normal growth and mental development. Globally fish accounts for about 17% of animal protein intake, but this share exceeds 50% in some African and Asian countries.

Demand for fish protein is expected to increase substantially in the future, and aquaculture helps fill the gap between the rising global demands for fishery products and the limited increases in capture fisheries production.

The global aquaculture sector comprises over 200 different species, reflecting the wide variety of candidate species cultivated, different production systems and business structures used. Development of this very diverse sector, has been facilitated largely by the application of science and the introduction of new technologies across almost every activity.

World class research

The UK is world renowned not just for world class agri-tech R&D, but its proven ability to develop and bring, with commercial partners, new products and solutions to market for improving the efficiency of aquaculture production.

The Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) is the UK’s largest and most diverse applied marine science centre, with capability covering shelf sea dynamics, climate effects on the marine environment, ecosystems and food security. Through CEFAS Technology Ltd, a number of innovations including the CEFAS Mooring Locator and Data Storage tags have been developed for the industry.

The Scottish Aquaculture innovation Centre (SAIC), based at the University of Stirling combines cross-disciplinary research on environments, reproduction, genetics, aquatic health, nutrition and feed supplies on production systems and markets, as well as social and economic impacts on the wide range of challenges faced as aquaculture grows to meet global demands. It also develops platforms for testing fish health and veterinary products, including challenge models.

The Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research based at Swansea University, Wales, is equipped with modern, fully programmable recirculating aquaculture systems, designed for applied research on a diverse range of aquatic organisms, from temperate to tropical and marine to freshwater environments.

Hull International Fisheries Institute is a specialist unit at the University of Hull that undertakes a range of research, education, training and consultancy in fisheries, conservation and aquatic-resource management.

Progressive farming system

The aquaculture industry is pursuing technological developments that ensure it remains sustainable and has minimal environmental impacts.

• In England, there are approximately 200 trout farms (with first sale value of £19m) and 185 fish farms for coarse and ornamental aquaculture (primarily carp and koi, but also goldfish, tench, barbell, roach and other native species) with an estimated value of £10m.

• There is increasing interest in warm water species in land based recirculation systems with highly technical controlled environments and lower environmental footprint for species including bass, turbot, tilapia, striped bass, barramundi, catfish and prawns.


The UK has a rich heritage of discovery and innovation. Industry partnerships with the UK science base create a thriving innovation ecosystem for turning ideas into commercial success. These advances include on-land recirculating aquaculture systems, offshore systems, aquaponic systems, fish nutrition, genetics and reproductive technologies, the modelling of aquaculture impacts and the use of information technology.

Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling is working with Marine Harvest Scotland Ltd and partners on full scale field trials to evaluate sterile triploid Atlantic salmon and family performance under commercial conditions (egg to market size) to address the increase in escapee fish from salmon farms within Europe and their effects on wild populations.

Marine Harvest Scotland Ltd and Scottish Sea Farms Ltd are breeding wrasse as part of a sustainable, integrated pest management strategy to support the efficient production of Atlantic Salmon.

The Scottish Association for Marine Science is working with the Celtic Sea Spice Company Ltd and partners on technology to cultivate two new species of farmed seaweed.

Landcatch Natural Selection has collaborated with the Roslin Institute, Edinburgh Genomics and Universities of Stirling and Glasgow to develop an advanced DNA chip allowing salmon breeders to detect fish with the best genes and improve the quality of their stock and resistance to disease.

• The National Lobster Hatchery and partners are working with the University of Exeter and CEFAS to develop a sea based culture to rear the European Lobster, in containers specifically designed for nursery and on-growing to a marketable size.

Odyssey Labs Ltd is working with BSFF and Solidaridad to develop HealthyShrimp, an affordable salinity sensor device to increase shrimp harvests and reduce environmental damage.


For further information on how UKTI can help you to accelerate your growth, contact the Agri-Tech Organisation:

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Sectors: Agriculture, Horticulture & Fisheries
Export Action Plan