Can the EU agri-environmental aid program be extended into the coastal zone to combat eutrophication?
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Eutrophication of coastal waters is a serious environmental problem with high costs for society globally. This is a development which demands immediate environmental action along many coastal sites. Since the 1980s, mussel farming has been recognized by Swedish environmental authorities as a possible measure to improve coastal water quality. Concepts and management strategies on how to increase mussel farming and thus combat coastal marine eutrophication has recently been developed in Sweden. The main principle of this development has been the implementation of nutrient trading as a management tool. This imposes demands on those who emit the pollution through the establishment of emission quotas, which are traded and bought by the emitter. The seller is a nutrient harvesting enterprise, e.g., a mussel farmer. This principle is particularly straightforward when the nutrients are discharged from a point source. When examining the nutrient supply from all diffuse sources, the situation is more complex. However, since the major part of the nutrient supply to coastal waters in many areas of Europe has its origin in agricultural operations, we suggest that the EU agro-environmental aid program could be extended into the coastal zone in order to combat eutrophication. In practice, this should involve support paid to mussel farming enterprises through their harvest of mussels (and thus their harvest of nutrients) in the same way as support is paid to agricultural farmers for operations that reduce nutrient leakage from their farmland. This is a simple, cost-effective and straightforward way of improving coastal water quality at many coastal sites that will, at the same time, provide coastal jobs. However, this eutrophication combat method depends on the EU agro-environmental aid program being extended beyond the shoreline.
KeywordsEutrophication Mussel farming Nutrient trading EU agri-environmental aid Coastal water quality
The authors would like to thank Dr. Max Troell for valuable and constructive criticism.
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