The European Parliament recently approved the initiative report on sustainable and competitive aquaculture. Regrettably, MEPs failed to take the opportunity to develop a new vision for European aquaculture, instead choosing to simply reiterate the conclusions from EU reports published five years ago.

In focusing solely on the same four areas identified by the European Commission in its 2013 strategic guidelines, the recent report provides little new information. Like the Commission’s publication, the Parliament’s report advocates reducing the administrative burden for aquaculture producers, coordinating spatial planning to define new areas for aquaculture farms, increasing the competitiveness of European aquaculture, and creating a level playing field between domestic and imported aquaculture products. It will thus contribute to neither a more environmental approach to European aquaculture nor the growth of the sector within the EU. While the report states that EUR 1.2 billion is allocated through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to support innovation in the aquaculture sector, the current low uptake of these funds suggests that such innovation remains scarce. In addition, the report promotes investment in pilot projects on farming practices that reduce the environmental impact of aquaculture (such as Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture Systems, aquaponics, and Recirculation Aquaculture Systems) instead of supporting EU-wide implementation.

At a parliamentary hearing in January of this year, Seas at Risk outlined several recommendations for a future model for European aquaculture. Had they integrated some of these proposals, MEPs could have developed an environmentally responsible aquaculture model with an ecosystem-based approach. This, in turn, would have supported the development of a multi-stakeholder platform between the scientists, industry representatives and NGOs who work together to define environmentally responsible aquaculture objectives. Their failure to do this represents a significant missed opportunity to develop a progressive new vision for European aquaculture.

The Parliament’s report “Towards a sustainable and competitive European aquaculture sector: current status and future challenges“, led by the rapporteur Carlos Iturgaiz from the European People’s Party, was published on 12 June 2018.