The core tasks of the Research Area Fisheries (D-VI) are situated in the field of fisheries biology, aquaculture and restocking, technical fisheries, and the quality of the marine habitat and its biological resources. This mission complies with the provision of scientifically sound policy advice on fisheries, mariculture and the environment, as requested by national and international governmental bodies and professional sectors.
The unfavourable economic circumstances (high fuel costs, more rigorous policy measures, and an increasing exploitation of the sea) undermine the fisheries sector thus rapidly that the existence of the Flemish fishery is in danger. On the initiative of the Agriculture and Fisheries Policy Area, a Task Force has been established to work out solutions that can guarantee the liveability of the sector on short, mid and long-term scales. The initiatives undertaken by the technical fisheries research group of D-VI are focused on energy saving adaptations, reduced by-catches, alternative fishing methods, new target species, quality aspects of landed fish and re-conversion.
The national data gathering program in support of the European Common Fisheries Policy is the central theme of the biological fisheries research in D-VI. The research focuses on population dynamics, stock size, discards and exploitation of commercial fish (e.g. sole, plaice, cod and whiting) and crustaceans (mainly langoustines and brown shrimp). Fisheries advice, based on the data thus collected, and the evaluation of the European fisheries advisory process, represent a considerable added value for D-VI. In addition, studies are conducted in the field of aquaculture and restocking, focusing on the cultivation and regeneration of commercial fish species on land and of commercial shellfish in the open sea.
Besides fisheries, also other anthropogenic activities have a (negative) effect on the marine habitat and especially on the marine biodiversity. The studies of the environmental monitoring group of D-VI emphasize the importance of the benthic life in and on the seafloor, because any loss of suitable habitat can induce changes in the diversity and density of the benthos, which leads to changes in the food web structure and to less exploitable fish. These long term programmes mainly focus on the biological and (bio)chemical effects of dredge dumping, sand and gravel extraction, wind mills and fisheries on the Belgian part of the North Sea.
The quality of fisheries products is important to both consumers and producers. Within this theme, D-VI carries out research on the genetic authenticity of fish, shellfish and crustaceans, and on the levels of contaminants in sea fish and fish from the Flemish surface waters (mainly eel). D-VI develops a system to evaluate the freshness, safety and nutritional value of various seafood products. In addition to the accreditation for chemical and biochemical analyses, the implementation of an accreditation system for fish quality and for the assessment of authenticity is worked out in more detail.