Language selection


Developing the benthic component of Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture to reduce the impact of organic nutrients from fish farms and evolving standard operating procedures



Green Sea Urchins (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis)
Photo: S. Robinson (DFO)

Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) is an advanced ecological engineering technique that has been developing in Canada for over a decade on both the East and West Coasts. IMTA mimics a natural ecosystem by combining the farming of multiple, complementary species from different levels of the food chain in a way that allows the uneaten feed, wastes, nutrients and by-products of one species to be recaptured and converted into fertilizer, feed and energy for the growth of the other species.

There is still a desire and requirement for aquaculture sites to control the amount of organic loading that comes from commercial fish farms and IMTA represents a realistic option for many aquaculture operations. However, the benthic portion of a complete IMTA operation needs focused research to develop the species and the structures for industry to adopt in order to viably reduce their environmental footprint. The goal of this project is to develop the third, extractive level of the IMTA food chain (benthic species) for open water, marine aquaculture sites practicing IMTA. Specifically, this project will assess the organic particle capture efficiencies, scan for pathogens and explore potential wild-farmed interactions for three target species: the northern sea cucumber (Cucumaria frondosa), the green sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) and the sea scallop (Placopecten magellanicus).

The results of this project will provide the information required by the aquaculture industry to create effective standard operating procedures to farm these species in a way that will reduce the environmental impact of the site.

This project supports the environmental performance and optimal fish health objectives of the Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP), and pertains to the following 2014-15 national ACRDP priorities : to explore the environmental impacts from aquaculture to the environment increasing the knowledge and understanding of how aquaculture finfish operations impact the environment, and developing the means to manage, mitigate and control these impacts; and increasing knowledge, understanding and developing better management practices with respect to disease impacts on finfish cultured species.

Program Name

Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP)


2014 - 2016


Atlantic: Gulf of St. Lawrence, St. Lawrence Estuary

Principal Investigator(s)

Shawn Robinson

Collaborative Partner(s)

Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd.


Video: Aquaculture Research: Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) - Deposit Feeders

Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture

Date modified: