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Intervention Area: Blue Bioresources

This Intervention Area addresses research and innovation needs to support a just transition to the sustainable production and utilization of blue bioresources, with emphasis on production and processes that minimise the environmental impacts while meeting the demand for healthy and affordable blue food, feed, and other biobased products.  



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Background and rationale 

The EU Green Deal sets the context for Europe’s blue economy to become sustainable and climate-neutral by 2050. The Blue Bioeconomy represents an important component of the broader blue economy, delivering food, feed and bio-based products for internal and export markets. With the completion of the Horizon 2020 BlueBio ERA-Net in 2023, the SBEP becomes a key implementing mechanism in Horizon Europe for blue bioeconomy R&D. To achieve sustainability, it is important to consider all stages of the bioresources value chain, from production (capture fisheries, aquaculture) to seafood processing, extracting value from waste streams, developing new types of biomasses, new food and non-food products, as well as advanced extraction technologies such as those used in biorefineries. Cooperation will be sought with the FutureFoodS partnership, which will focus on the post-farming and -fishing part of food systems. 

Key considerations to be taken on board in this Intervention Area include the importance of engaging with industry and stakeholders and if relevant, the application of multi/trans-disciplinary approaches to address complex challenges, including social sciences and humanities.  

Key thematic areas 

Sustainable Fisheries and Harvesting    

Overexploitation and the cumulative impact of overfishing with the effects of pollutants, climate change and other drivers on susceptible species and ecosystems is leading to unsustainable scenarios for the next decades. To bring Europe's fish stocks back to sustainable levels, there are important challenges remaining. More food, feed or biotic resources for other purposes can be obtained from more targeted fisheries and harvesting by improved management of overfished stocks, optimized fishing technologies and practices to reduce bycatch and discards, and increased fishing and harvesting of underutilised species (i.e., zooplankton, other invertebrates, macroalgae). A forward-looking ecosystem-based management approach under EU legislation yet tailored to local conditions will reduce adverse impacts of fishing and harvesting on marine ecosystems, particularly sensitive species, and on vulnerable habitats. The sustainability of mesopelagic fisheries is still being assessed and there is a unique opportunity to ensure that EBM is embedded from the outset. New digital tools such as remote electronic monitoring systems, catch reporting using mobile applications, ecosystem modelling and artificial intelligence tools can optimize both small- and large-scale fishing operations. At the same time such technologies can enable data collection and analysis that can support development of sustainable management practices, while providing full traceability for our seafood. Assessments and solution scenarios should consider the impact and social implications of combined drivers such as habitat degradation, pollution, warming, water stratification and acidification, as well as their effects, such as changes in ecosystem composition, higher frequency of toxic algal blooms and alterations with species migration and phenology. 

Activities should address the following aspects: 

  • Integrated approaches to innovation for fishing vessels to improve vessel operations and practices including technology for e.g., location (also to contrast illegal fisheries), and water characteristics, catch logistics, while reducing the use of fossil fuels.  

  • Exploring and co-developing with industry the potential for new fishing techniques, technologies, and new resources for small-scale fisheries, and seaweed harvesting.  

  • Research to inform policy options and management of migratory fish stocks that spend different parts of their life cycle in different jurisdictions. This is a critical issue for the EU Common Fisheries Policy and co-management of stocks between EU and third countries.  

  • Supporting the application of ecosystem-based management approaches to inshore and small-scale fisheries management.  

  • Understanding the impacts of climate change and human activities including pollution on commercial fisheries, fish stocks and other species with commercial potential. 

  • Understanding cross-compliance, alignment and trade-offs between fisheries policy and management with other policy domains (MSP, MSFD, WFD) and the implications of measures associated with the EU Nature Restoration Law on fishing and fishers.   

  • Technological advancements to preserve the nutritional value and use for new types of catch or harvest.  

  • Increased R&I efforts to improve the understanding of species’ role in the trophic webs, as well as their growth potential as seen in an integrated sustainability and biodiversity-resilience perspective, including the knowledge in concrete management solutions (based on managers’ needs). 

  • Understanding the social and economic drivers of change in commercial fisheries to inform both fisheries, economic and regional development policy and planning. 

  • R&I that supports new digital tools for monitoring for well-informed and timely decision making and sustainable management considering the impact and societal costs of stressors such as habitat degradation, pollution, and climate change.  

  • Development of more selective fishing gears that reduce environmental impact, particularly in the bottom-contact fisheries, and for harvesting new species including macroalgae. Focus can also be on improving fish welfare and increasing traceability. 



Production of safe, secure food and sustainable bioproducts through aquaculture, has a margin for improvements in respect of diversification, competitiveness, and environmental performance. Aquaculture production should be rethought to satisfy growing consumer demand for blue food, as well as the need for innovative blue bioproducts, while enhancing the social, economic, and environmental sustainability and carbon neutrality of the production. This requires targeted technological advancements and diversified production solutions also considering regional and local differences throughout Europe. Integrated multitrophic aquaculture (IMTA), off-shore production, closed systems, or land-based infrastructure with use of recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), are options for culturing of established and new species. Diversification of species, in particular the expansion and production of organisms of the primary and/or low trophic levels, face several challenges that need technological advancements. For macroalgae there is a need for R&I that supports spatial considerations as well as new offshore production techniques that require further development and facilities, including larger-scale farms, mechanisation, and methods for further processing after harvest. The new and modified technological and digital systems should favour and promote the health and welfare and quality of the farmed fish. 

Activities should address the following aspects: 

  • Challenges and opportunities associated with further development and expansion of seaweed production, including but not limited to environmental concerns, e.g., light, nutrients’ uptake, vectors for diseases, parasites and spread of invasive species; risk of genetic impact on wild seaweed populations; challenges of insufficient seed quality and varying nutritional levels; food safety challenges due to bioaccumulation of heavy metals; new methods for processing harvested seaweed, taking into account the subsequent value chain (e.g. through biorefinery).  

  • Development of biologically, technically, and economically feasible onshore recirculating aquaculture systems opportunities for fish, shellfish, and seaweed. 

  • Challenges and opportunities associated with mollusc production, including but not limited to algal blooms as potential threats for food safety; cost/benefits for longer distance offshore production. 

  • Innovative alternative solutions to produce established and new species, including integrated multitrophic aquaculture, new systems associated with other economic off-shore activities, closed or land-based systems.   

  • New high value and sustainable feed sources to ensure sufficient and balanced feeds that promote fish quality, health, and welfare. 

  • Challenges and opportunities for growth in fed mariculture, including but not limited to sustainable and healthy feed, fish health optimization environmental concerns, and food safety issues due to bioaccumulation and biomagnification of xenobiotics.  


Enabling a circular blue bioeconomy 

Transitioning to a circular blue bioeconomy, whereby the entire biomass of fish, shellfish and seaweed sourced from capture fisheries and aquaculture is utilised, presents both challenges and opportunities. Current policy and regulation can be a barrier to developing new bio-products from waste or side streams (by-catch, rest raw materials etc.), and there is a growing body of evidence to support policy reform. New, sustainable, high-value products can be developed through a biorefinery approach, by e.g., valorisation of waste streams, and contributes to minimising waste and enhancing the value chain. Further exploration of the synergies between blue (aquatic farming) and green (agriculture) is another opportunity in a fully circular blue bioeconomy. For example, side streams from agriculture could be used in aquaculture or bio stimulants derived from marine sources could be used in agriculture. New solutions are also needed for existing challenges e.g., seaweed as bioplastic.  

Activities should address the following aspects: 

  • Opportunities for developing new sustainable bio-based products (food/feed/chemical/pharmaceutical/material) or services to accelerate the ocean economy and provide solutions for existing challenges.  

  • Post-harvest or processing technology to overcome sensory and other drawbacks to increase consumer acceptance for new products.   

  • R&I in support of traceability of bio-based products from marine sources through digitalisation. 

  • R&I that supports policy reform with respect to regulations on use of waste or side streams for a variety of new bio-based products (food/feed/chemical/pharmaceutical/nutraceutical/material). 


Implementation, enablers, and synergies  

R&I topics will be formulated for calls for proposals, where projects will be expected to involve a broad range of scientific disciplines, industry partners, citizens, and policy stakeholders order to meet the stated objectives and the quadruple helix ambition. Relevant additional activities could include bringing together diverse marine stakeholder to co-develop objectives, assessing the access and status of research, testing, and demonstration facilities, or supporting the uptake of innovative solutions. 

Synergies and complementarity will be sought through dialogue with other relevant and potential overlapping initiatives, particularly EU partnerships Biodiversa+, FutureFoodS, Water4All, and Animal Health and Welfare; actions under the Mission Restore our Oceans and Waters (Mission Ocean); the Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking (CBE-JU) and Waterborne platform. It is important to ensure that new knowledge, products, or services stemming from Cluster 5 and 6 calls are taken up in relevant blue sectors (by both production and value chain stakeholders). 

Outcomes and Impacts 

  • Examples of outcomes from R&I investment in this area: Sustainably produced, nutritious, affordable and climate friendly blue food; diversification of food, feed and other feedstock for products with focus on lower trophic levels; more healthy food, fish, fish stocks and healthier marine ecosystems; improved production efficiencies, for seafood products; greater understanding of the impacts of climate change and human activities on commercial fisheries and fish stock; value chain approaches; aquatic bio-productions that are regionally adapted, well integrated into area-based management, with more selective and less damaging fishing techniques; deployment of new technical solutions, digital, nature-based and social innovations as well as community-led and purpose-driven technology for the blue food sectors.  

  • Environmental impacts: reduced overfishing by supporting legislation to reducing fishing pressure on overexploited species; optimized technology for reduced bycatch and disincentivising its exploitation; supporting the industry shift towards carbon neutrality by development of more selective and less energy-consuming technologies and procedures​; Reduced impact of fisheries on marine habitats​. 

  • Social impacts: more informed consumers​; improved understanding of social and economic drivers of change in the blue bioeconomy and in economic and regional development policy and planning; uptake of innovative fishing gear​ 

  • Economic impacts: productive and competitive greening of the fisheries, aquaculture and processing sectors​; improved traceability and labelling of blue food​; increase in the number of blue-green companies, products, processes and services​; reduced import dependencies and strengthened tech industries; policy and management options to inform EU (CFP) and third-party negotiations in respect of migratory species.