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Building a sustainable future for aquaculture

Aquaculture provides mankind with around half the fish that it consumes. Although the European aquaculture industry has many strengths, European production tends to stagnate in comparison to the industries of other countries around the world. In this Communication, the Commission identifies the main challenges in the sector and wishes to give a new impetus to the sustainable development of aquaculture in the European Union (EU).

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 8 April 2009 - Building a sustainable future for aquaculture - A new impetus for the Strategy for the Sustainable Development of European Aquaculture [COM(2009) 162 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

Seven years on from the adoption of the strategy for the sustainable development of European aquaculture in 2002, significant progress has been made in ensuring the environmental sustainability and quality of European Union (EU) aquaculture production. However, unlike other regions in the world where high rates of growth have been recorded, the total volume of aquaculture production (mainly fish and shellfish) in the EU overall has stagnated.

In its Communication, the Commission examines the causes of this stagnation and envisages actions which are under the responsibility of public authorities, in order to improve competitiveness, sustainability and governance in the sector.

Barriers to the growth of European aquaculture

The European Union depends more and more on imports of fishery and aquaculture products. Even though European aquaculture benefits from dynamic support in terms of research and technology innovation, advanced equipment and fish feed, qualified and trained entrepreneurs, and operates within a legal framework for environment and health protection, the industry is faced with many challenges. In particular, aquaculture enterprises must have access to the space and water required for production, obtain the associated multiple authorisations, maintain as far as possible the health of fish despite an insufficiency of medicines and vaccines, have access to capital to invest and develop, withstand pressure from imports, etc.

Building the future of the European Union aquaculture industry

It is in the interests of the European Union to better promote this sector and to raise awareness on the part of public authorities and investors. Even if wild stocks of fish recover to Maximum Sustainable Yield levels, the rapidly expanding demand will also have to be met from aquaculture production.

The EU must put in place appropriate measures to ensure that the Community aquaculture industry can take a lead role in the production of aquatic food, technology and innovation, and the setting of standards and certification processes at European and international level. The aim of this Communication is to help bring about the conditions for a successful and sustainable aquaculture industry that can compete successfully in the market.

Public authorities should establish a predictable, consistent and cost-effective legislative framework. In order to be effective, the strategy should be supported by all. Its vision and objectives should be strengthened and relayed by public authorities at national and regional level.

Improving competitiveness, sustainability and governance

In order to increase competitiveness in the sector, it is essential to continue to support research and technological development, to promote spatial planning in coastal zones and take into account the needs of the aquaculture sector as regards the market for fishery and aquaculture products.

To guarantee the sustainable development of aquaculture, the EU must continue to support environment-friendly production methods, but also ensure that aquaculture has access to a high-quality environment particularly in terms of water quality. It must also guarantee animal welfare and health and continue to provide a high level of consumer protection.

It is important to enhance the image of European aquaculture and public authorities should improve aspects related to governance, especially in terms of reducing administrative charges, consulting stakeholders and informing the public.

Aquaculture’s success depends to a great extent on the existence of an environment which is favourable to enterprises in this sector. The Commission therefore proposes to provide Member States and regional authorities with guidance, to ensure that targeted measures taken at local, national and EU level help the sector to fully exploit its assets.

Concerted action at all levels to unlock the potential of the aquaculture sector should offer many advantages. In this regard, the Commission considers that a strong and revitalised aquaculture industry will also benefit related sectors, contribute to the development of rural areas and coastal zones, and could meet the demands of consumers who will have access to high-quality food which is healthy and produced using ecological methods.

Last updated: 26.11.2009
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