The European Parliament, led by rapporteur Carlos Iturgaiz, is currently analysing the reasons underlying the failure of the EU aquaculture sector to grow at a level consistent with recent global trends (‘Towards a sustainable and competitive European aquaculture sector: current status and future challenges’). At a Parliamentary hearing on January 11th, several stakeholders, including the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers, General Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives-General Committee for Agricultural Cooperation in the European Union, BirdLife, and Seas At Risk, presented their views on the future development of the EU aquaculture sector.

This own-initiative report has been drafted by the European People’s Party within the European Parliament and is expected to be submitted for voting by the Parliament’s Fisheries Committee in April of this year. In 2013, the European Commission investigated possible reasons for the lack of growth in the EU aquaculture sector. Its subsequent  Strategic Guidelines for the sustainable development of EU aquaculture focused on simplifying administrative procedures, securing sustainable development through coordinated spatial planning, enhancing the competitiveness of EU aquaculture, and promoting a level playing field. The forthcoming own-initiative report will assess developments since that 2013 publication.

During the recent Parliamentary hearing, Seas At Risk spoke on the future model of EU aquaculture, highlighting three key areas:

  1. Adopting an environmentally responsible aquaculture model within the EU, which:
    • Ensures the sustainable sourcing of feed;
    • Minimises negative impacts on biodiversity;
    • Reduces the impact of chemicals;
    • Promotes the development of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture and aquaponics.
  2. Adopting a new way of looking at aquaculture, by applying an ecosystem-based approach, assessing environmental limits, and taking into account the benefits and disadvantages of aquaculture for the environment. For example, benefits from seaweed and shellfish aquaculture include improved water quality and creation of coastal structures which limit coastal erosion and habitats for other wild species, while, by contrast, finfish and shellfish aquaculture create nutrient loading and spread disease to wild fish populations.
  3. Taking a multi-stakeholder approach to aquaculture, whereby scientists, industry representatives and NGOs jointly develop and implement environmentally responsible aquaculture objectives. It is crucial that the right species, farm scales and locations are matched through strategic planning, collaboration and monitoring services. The Aquaculture Advisory Council represents a current example of the multi-stakeholder approach at a policy level.