Brussels, 8 April 2009
As one of the world's fastest growing food sectors, aquaculture, already provides the planet with about half of all the fish we eat and still has a lot more to give. The EU has put in place high standards to keep sustainable growth at the heart of aquaculture's approach and methods; our aquaculture industry leads the world in research and technological development. Yet this progress in excellence has not been reflected in production, which has levelled off in the EU, while there has been strong growth in some other parts of the world. In the Communication it is presenting today the Commission sets out to address this state of affairs and give fresh impetus to sustainable growth to the EU's aquaculture sector.
“Aquaculture has a bright future ahead of it in providing Europe's discerning consumers with high-quality, healthy fish products. However, today its potential is far from being fully realised. It is time for it to get its full share and to give this strategically important sector an equal voice, and – quite literally – the place it needs to develop,” Joe Borg, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, commented.
In its Communication the Commission examines the root causes of the stagnation in EU aquaculture production and looks at ways to improve the sector's competitiveness, sustainability and governance.
Firstly, the sector can become more competitive through ongoing strong support for research and technological development, improved planning of space in coastal areas and river basins to make it easier for the sector to compete for space and water, and inclusion of its specific needs in the EU's market policy for fisheries products. Secondly, it will remain sustainable if it continues to build on environmentally friendly production methods, maintains high animal health and welfare standards and delivers a high level of consumer protection. Thirdly, more can be done to enhance the sector's image and its governance-related aspects. Aquaculture's success will depend to a large extend on there being a business-friendly environment for the sector at national and/or local level. Hence the Commission's willingness to provide Member States and regional authorities with guidance to ensure that targeted measures at local, national and EU level help the sector make full use of its assets.
The Commission believes that a strong, reinvigorated aquaculture industry would serve as a catalyst for growth in related sectors and further contribute to the development of rural and coastal areas. Moreover, consumers would benefit in the form of healthy, high-quality food products produced in an environmentally friendly way. These are just some of the crucial benefits that would accrue from concerted European action at all levels to unlock the aquaculture sector's full potential.
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