A strategy for the sustainable development of European aquaculture
The European Commission is proposing the implementation of a strategy for the sustainable development of aquaculture.
Communication from the Commission to the Council and European Parliament of 19 September 2002. A strategy for the sustainable development of European aquaculture [COM(2002) 511 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
Aquaculture in the European Union. European aquaculture producers mainly produce fresh-water fish, salt-water fish and molluscs. They also produce small quantities of crustaceans and seaweed. Producing 1 315 000 tonnes in 2000, European aquaculture accounts for barely 3% of world production, although it tops the list for certain species. Annual production value amounts to EUR 2 500 million.
In 1997, aquaculture provided 57 000 full-time jobs.
Fish farming can be found in rural areas and peripheral regions dependent on fisheries. In some regions, like Galicia and Brittany, it plays a crucial socio-economic role.
The sector suffers from price instability and should be regulated by appropriate legislation at European level. This would help provide stability in areas dependent on fishing and provide them with economic viability and self-sufficiency.
The field of aquaculture faces many challenges.
In particular, the priority must be to keep the sector economically viable, guarantee food safety and animal welfare, solve environmental problems and stimulate research.
To attain these objectives, the Commission intends to implement nine actions:
- Increasing production. The Commission is proposing to redirect the aid granted by the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG). Research on new species and varieties will be promoted. Common standards must also be laid down for organic aquaculture.
- Improving the use of space. Closed water recirculating systems, offshore fish cage technology, mollusc offshore rafts and long-lines must all be developed. At the same time, integrated coastal zone management must take account of aquaculture in order to manage the use of coastal zones, which are already under all sorts of pressures from human activity.
- Developing the market, marketing and information. The Commission recommends more frequent use of official quality marks, promotional campaigns to improve the image of the sector and gathering reliable statistical information. Fish farmers will be encouraged to form marketing partnerships.
- Improving training. The Commission proposes to adapt training programmes to the needs of aquaculture. The role of women, who often occupy unskilled jobs, should be recognised. The Commission also recommends strengthening training programmes targeting women performing or wishing to perform management tasks. Economic decision-makers should take aquaculture into account as a factor in local development.
- Strengthening governance. The Commission is proposing to strengthen stakeholder participation in decision-making. At the same time, self-regulation and voluntary agreements such as codes of best practice and good conduct should be encouraged. The Community eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS) should also be introduced in the aquaculture sector.
- Guaranteeing product safety. Regarding public health, the Community legislation on food safety is in the process of being recast. The provisions on residues of antibiotics and dioxin in food will be strengthened. Research on the damage caused by the proliferation of toxic algal blooms and animal diseases will be promoted. Regarding animal health, European veterinary legislation needs to be updated. The problem of sea lice must be solved and the legislation on veterinary medicine amended.
- Animal welfare. The Commission could propose the adoption of standards to improve the welfare of farmed fish.
Protecting the environment. The impact of waste must be reduced. Accordingly, the Commission intends to study the possibility of extending the rules on nitrate emissions to cover aquaculture, and to promote the fight against eutrophication.
The impact on fisheries of catching wild fish to be reared in captivity should be studied.
The EU should set up instruments to reduce the environmental impact of escapee, transgenic and alien species of fish. Specific criteria and guidelines must also be adopted for aquaculture environmental impact assessments.
Solutions must be found to predation on aquaculture production by protected wild species.
- Strengthening research. National and Community programmes to support research activities will be crucial to the future of aquaculture. At Community level, instruments like the FIFG and the 6th Framework Programme for research and technological development will be mobilised. Research priorities will be defined.