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European Commission


Brussels, 29 April 2013

Questions and Answers on Strategic Guidelines for sustainable EU aquaculture

What are the reasons for promoting aquaculture?

Aquaculture can bring safe, healthy and sustainable seafood on our tables, and help us fight overfishing. The global consumption of seafood is constantly increasing, but there is a limit to what our capture fisheries can sustainably produce. Aquaculture can help filling this growing gap in a sustainable way. It also has a positive impact in terms of growth and job creation in coastal and inland areas: based on current labour productivity, each percentage point of current EU consumption produced internally through aquaculture could help create between 3,000 and 4,000 full-time jobs.

Do the Guidelines create new legal obligations for the Member States?

No. The Common Fisheries Policy reform foresees the development and promotion of aquaculture through the so-called 'open method of coordination' based on strategic guidelines, multiannual national plans prepared by the Member States and exchange of best practices. The Guidelines are the first step in this process of voluntary cooperation between Member States and the Commission. The next step is for Member States to prepare their multiannual national plans for the development of sustainable aquaculture. The issues addressed by the open method of coordination remain under national competence: this approach intends to help Member States coordinating their efforts and exchange best practices and know-how. The Commission services will also provide further practical guidance on the implementation of existing EU water legislation in the area of aquaculture, as it has recently done with respect to Natura2000 areas.

How is the open method of coordination related to the proposed European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)?

The EMFF is expected to be the main financial tool to support the development of aquaculture. Thus, it is important that the Operational Plan that each Member State will prepare in the context of the EMFF (currently under negotiation) is consistent with its multiannual national plan for the development of sustainable aquaculture, in order to foster the overall coherence of aquaculture policy. The content of the Operational Plan and the multiannual national plan will be defined by each Member State taking into consideration its specific conditions, starting points and objectives.

Will "cutting red tape" have an impact on health and environmental protection?

No. Existing EU legislation – including sanitary checks, consumer and environmental protection – is not affected by the Guidelines. Member States will have an opportunity to exchange best practices on how to apply these legal requirements in a way that is less burdensome for aquaculture producers, without calling into question the high level of consumer and environmental protection guaranteed by EU law.

How are the Guidelines related to the proposed Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management?

The proposed Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management (IP/13/222) asks Member States to draw up maritime spatial plans and develop integrated coastal management strategies. They will have to fulfil minimum requirements of procedural nature, but the planning details and the determination of management objectives are left to Member States. With the Open Method of Coordination, the Commission is offering Member States an opportunity to exchange best practices on how to include aquaculture activities in these plans in a way that responds to the sector's needs and minimises its impacts on the environment and other human activities. In the end, the decision on the content of the maritime spatial planning and the integrated coastal management rests with the Member States, who can tailor them to their specific economic, social and environmental priorities, as well as their national sectorial policy objectives and legal traditions.

How are the guidelines improving the level playing field?

The guidelines will help ensuring that the sustainability and high quality of EU aquaculture products are made more visible, and that EU consumers will be better informed. Experience in different markets shows that consumers are often ready to pay a premium for high quality and sustainability; EU aquaculture offers products with these characteristics, but does not exploit sufficiently this competitive advantage. If we ensure better consumer information, EU aquaculture products has the potential to become more attractive for consumers. New labelling provisions as proposed in the CMO Regulation may help better differentiation of EU aquaculture products; voluntary certification schemes can also play a role in this context. By the end of 2013 the Commission will also launch a Communication campaign on the strengths of EU aquaculture.

How will research and innovation contribute to the competitiveness of the aquaculture sector?

Research and innovation have a very important role to play: they can help making aquaculture production more efficient, by reducing the need for inputs and by enhancing the understanding of the biological cycle; they can also help the aquaculture industry bring to the market new species which respond to the needs of the consumers and bring higher income to producers. Thanks to research and innovation, aquaculture production can also become more sustainable, by reducing its impacts on the environment and on other economic activities. Specific priorities for the sector have been identified in the Strategic Research Agenda elaborated in 2012 by the European Aquaculture Technology and Innovation Platform on the basis of an extensive stakeholder consultation.

What does this package do for SMEs?

The vast majority of EU aquaculture producers are SMEs; many are family-owned micro enterprises. One of the key barriers to the development of aquaculture is represented by the high administrative costs, long times and uncertainties connected to the licencing process for new farms; the relative weight of these costs compared to turnover and number of employees can be up to ten times higher for SMEs than for large companies. The Commission will work closely with Member States to identify best practices and margins for improvement, with the help of the Commission's High Level Group on Administrative Burdens, whose mandate is to help Member States' public administrations to implement EU legislation in a way that is more efficient and responsive to the needs of stakeholders. The establishment of producers organisations promoted through the CMO can also help small producers being better organised and represented.

Facts and figures on EU aquaculture

The EU seafood consumption is 13.2 million tonnes; of this, 25% comes from EU fisheries, 65% from imports and 10% from EU aquaculture.

Total EU aquaculture production (2010): 1.26 million tonnes, € 3.1 billion.

50% of the total EU aquaculture production volume is represented by molluscs, 28% by marine fish and 22% by freshwater fish.

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