European Sea Bass

Dicentrachus labrax

Farm Siting

Appropriate siting, design and construction of sea bass cage farms is essential to limit adverse impacts on the environment and natural ecosystems. In addition, if floating net-pens are located within navigable water bodies, consideration should be given to ensure that they do not impinge and restrict movement of boats, aquatic animals and the water itself. There may also be concerns over the visual impact of siting cages in the areas of natural beauty, in such areas, it is important that the design, construction and colour of farm facilities are sympathetic with the landscape in which they sit.

As sea bass net-pens are often located in areas with relatively rich wildlife, species that prey on fish can be attracted to them. This can potentially become a significant problem for a farmer due to direct losses and the stress and injuries caused to their stock. In the worst case scenario there could be significant losses to stock and/or escapes if predators breach net-pens. Birds may predate upon sea bass in ponds, lagoons and sea cages but predation by marine mammals on sea bass is not documented1.

National and local laws should be adhered to and all farms should have the required licences, permits and registrations in regards to their site and its operations, with documentation being kept to evidence compliance. Where aquaculture development plans exist, then new farms should be located within the appropriately identified areas2. Marine cage culture has ‘minimal’ impacts to the environment where farms are appropriately sited and properly managed3.

Major sea bass producing countries are increasingly using marine spatial planning to regulate where aquaculture can take place. Measures being taken include but are not limited to the creation of zones where production is controlled; specifying allowable production densities and minimum depths that net-pens can be sited. Both Greece and Turkey have enacted regulations in regards to marine spatial planning and the sustainable development of aquaculture4, 5. The EU has also published guidance on how aquaculture operations can be sited in protected areas (e.g. Natura 2000 sites)6.

To improve access to space and water for farming areas the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM)7 adopted a specific resolution on Allocated Zones for Aquaculture (AZA) in 20128, 9, 10. The GFCM is a regional fisheries management organization involved in conservation, sustainable marine resources and the development of aquaculture. Many countries in Europe and in the GFCM are taking up the AZA resolution and adapting this within their national legislations. The GFCM is also preparing a ‘Strategy for the sustainable development of Mediterranean and Black Sea aquaculture’ following the AZA framework11.

Sea bass farmers should ensure all possible management measures are taken to protect stocks from predators. Deterrents, scarers and increased on-site activity may be effective. Lethal methods of predator control should only be resorted to when appropriate licences are in place and the predatory species are not threatened in any way.

Certification of sea bass farms ensures they are addressing issues such as, but not limited to, location and siting, and impacts on endangered species.


  1. EFSA, 2008. Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Animal Health and Welfare on a request from the European Commission on animal welfare aspects of husbandry systems for farmed European sea bass and Gilthead sea bream. EFSA Journal, 2008 p1-21
  2. FAO/World Bank
  3. NOAA
  4. FAO
  5. FAO
  6. EC
  7. GFCM
  8. FAO
  9. FAO
  10. Sanchez-Jerez, P., et al, 2016. Aquaculture’s struggle for space: the need for coastal spatial planning and the potential benefits of Allocated Zones for Aquaculture (AZAs) to avoid conflict and promote sustainability. Aquaculture Environment Interactions, Vol. 8 p41–54
  11. FAO