Offshore fish farming: entering a new phase

Offshore fish farming requires careful planning to ensure efficiency, safety and sustainability

Aquaculture, or aquafarming, is the world's fastest-growing food production sector. The industry has the potential to help in the fight against global malnutrition and increase food supply in a sustainable way. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization predicts aquaculture production will grow 80% by 2050.

Assessing the environmental impact

The main issues currently affecting the industry are pollution, disease and fish escape. Governments are under pressure from environmental groups and non-government organisations (NGOs) to improve sustainability in the industry.

In order to avoid environmental impact in vulnerable areas such as lagoons, fjords and bays, aquaculture producers may opt for either offshore or land (inshore) installation. Most of the current fish farming takes place in sheltered waters or fjords using net pens and floats. Norway is currently the leader in Europe, operating some 1,400 fjord farms.

A lack of regulation

Today, there is relatively little regulation of the industry. National regulation exists in some countries, notably Scotland and Norway (the latter with Regulation NS9415), and there is also an ISO standard for the industry (ISO 16488:2015).

However, there is little regulation of offshore installations elsewhere in the world, for example in the Oceania region including the South Pacific and New Zealand, despite the rising number of worldwide projects being developed. 

Today the main countries developing offshore aquaculture are Norway, Scotland, Chile and Canada. There is also a growing interest in China and the South Pacific region.

Jean Michel Chatelier - Global Market Leader for Fishing Vessels
Jean Michel

Global Market Leader for Fishing Vessels

Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore

Bureau Veritas has a long history in both the offshore and aquafarming industries. We help companies achieve compliance in all aspects of their fish farming business, as well as meet key sustainability and safety goals. We are currently preparing a new Rule note dedicated to the offshore fish farming industry, one of the first of its kind in the industry.

Classification expertise

Since the publication of Bureau Veritas’ initial Rule note NR387 for the classification of fish farms more than 20 years ago, BV has built up a first-class reputation in the aquaculture industry.

BV provides two main services to the industry: the certification of seafood through its division BV Industry; and the classification and certification of floating fish farming installations through BV Marine & Offshore.

The latter is assisted by the Bureau Veritas’ long experience in offshore units, using its Offshore Rules book NR445.

A dedicated BV taskforce is now preparing a new Rule note for offshore fish farming to cater for the expected growth in the industry. The Rule will cover floating structures, equipment, stability rules, machinery, power and other safety aspects of the industry.

BV also has experience in yarn and net systems, and is a member of the European association Eurocord dedicated to the development of bio-based yarns for the manufacture of ropes and nets, as well as other research and development activities in this area.

A rise in bespoke projects

Reacting to regional growth, BV also recently certified two aquaculture units in China developed by the Guangzhou Institute of Energy Conversion (GIEC). The society carried out the certification of the hulls, equipment, and mooring, and also ensured compliance with other key standards and conventions including IEC, API, ILLC and Marpol. There are currently 18 similar upcoming projects in China, including two large offshore fish farms that are due to launch shortly.

More recently, BV worked on a unique project bringing together industrial fish farming and a visitor centre. The society combined its existing Rules for floating establishments (NR580) with those for fish farming in order to certify the visitor accommodation facilities. More of these types of projects are expected in future.