To improve the development of EU aquaculture, the European Commission has issued strategic guidelines, to assist in overcoming the challenges facing the sector.
The EU aquaculture sector has a significant growth potential and can help to spare overexploited sea resources. The Guidelines presented today will help coordinate efforts across all Member States. They do not create new legal obligations, but present a series of voluntary steps that Member States, the Commission, and stakeholders can take to promote an industry that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable and provides consumers with healthy, high-quality seafood.
As outlined in the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy – currently under negotiation - the aquaculture industry can help fill the gap between an ever growing consumption of seafood and dwindling fish stocks. In fact, it can provide a viable alternative to overfishing and generate growth and jobs in both coastal and inland areas. In other parts of the world the industry is booming. Globally, in the EU it is stagnating, partly because of slow licensing procedures and administrative inefficiencies at different levels.
“Today, obtaining a licence for a new farm can take up to three years, which obviously deters investors” said European Commissioner for Maritime Affaires and Fisheries Maria Damanaki. "I want to work with Member States to cut red tape and help the competitiveness of this sector building upon the high level of consumer and environmental protection we currently have".
The Commission, in close consultation with all stakeholders, has identified four main challenges facing the aquaculture sector: a necessity to reduce red tape and uncertainties for operators; a need to facilitate access to space and water; a requirement to increase the sector's competitiveness; and a need to improve the level playing field by exploiting the competitive edge of "made-in-the-EU" fish products.
The guidelines address these challenges and identify a mix of measures like administrative simplification, spatial planning, market organisation, diversification, better labelling and information, to help market forces unlock the potential of the EU aquaculture sector. For example:
- the Commission will coordinate an exercise in identifying best practices to reduce licensing times to start new aquaculture businesses
- the Commission is promoting an integrated approach to spatial planning that will help guaranteeing fish farmers proper access to space and water while minimizing impact on the environment and on other economic activities.
- European aquaculture offers top-quality products which comply with the highest standards for consumer health, environment protection and animal welfare. This carries cost implications for producers, but proper information on the products' quality, such as labelling, can turn it into a competitive advantage and improve consumers' perception.
The strategic guidelines are linked to the proposed reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which aims to promote aquaculture through a so-called 'open method of coordination'. On the basis of these guidelines, and without prejudice to the outcome of the negotiations on the CFP reform, Member States will prepare their Multiannual national strategic plans, taking into consideration each country's specific starting conditions, challenges and potential. The Commission will help coordinating activities and exchanging best practices and in providing further guidance on how to reconcile, in practice, economic activities with EU legislation.
In 2010, the value of EU aquaculture production was € 3.1 billion for 1.26 million tons of production. This corresponds to about 2% of global aquaculture production. EU aquaculture production has stagnated in the last decade, while other areas – in particular Asia – have seen a very fast growth of the sector.
Today, 10% of the EU seafood consumption comes from aquaculture, 25% from EU fisheries and 65% from imports from third countries (including both fisheries and aquaculture); the gap between consumption and production of our capture fisheries has been steadily growing in the last years, and aquaculture can help filling it. Each percentage point of current EU consumption produced internally through aquaculture could help create between 3,000 and 4,000 full-time jobs.
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