EU aquaculture production to double by 2030

Published on
November 26, 2014

A recent study undertaken for the European Parliament's Committee on Fisheries by the European Aquaculture Society, the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers and the University of Stirling Institute of Aquaculture, has shed insight into the potential long-term economic and ecological impacts of increasing aquaculture in the EU.

The study, which forecasts a doubling of production by 2030, looks at the main future technologies, trends and sectoral challenges that would be faced, along with feed requirements and how these might impact EU fisheries. It also discusses the public support and policy considerations that would be necessary in order for aquaculture to grow.

Despite hopes for growth of the sector over the past decade, EU aquaculture production has increased by just 0.5 percent compared to global aquaculture growth of 7 percent in the same period.

FISHSTAT data shows that production is currently dominated by just five species, which account for 90 percent of the total production of 1.3 million metric tons (MT) in the EU, although more than 70 different species are cultivated. The top five in 2012 were rainbow trout at 185,000 MT, Atlantic salmon at 175,000 MT, gilthead bream at 112,000 MT, European seabass at 78,000 MT and the common carp at 65,000 MT.

Of the remaining 10 percent, the most important species are turbot, the European eel, catfish and tuna, although eel and tuna still require access to live stock from the wild for ongrowing.  

Major challenges to growth include the need to adapt and restructure to meet changing market demands, matching evolving consumer preferences, multiple retail store domination of the market, competition from imported products, and competition with other foods such as chicken and pork. Strategic challenges include the need to avoid boom-bust scenarios, adapting policies to incorporate aquaculture, better communication to address public perceptions, and the inadequate financial capability of small companies to expand. Climate change is also seen as a potential issue, as are new diseases, feed quality, spatial requirements, and the need to selectively breed to improve the performance of all species.

The total volume of fish and shellfish produced in aquaculture is predicted to rise by 56 percent to 772,000 MT, from 2010 to 2030, and the value to increase by EUR 2.7 billion (USD 3.4 billion). A total additional feed requirement of 395,000 MT is forecast.

For coldwater marine species, production is predicted to more than double by 2030 to provide an additional 192,000 MT of fish worth EUR 587 million (USD 734.3 million). This equates to an average 4 percent growth per year over the period. Salmon will remain the dominant species in this sector.

A similar 4 percent per year growth trend is anticipated for warmwater marine species, with an increase of 239,764 MT valued at EUR 1.2 million (USD 1.5 million). Sea bass and sea bream will continue to be the main species, with turbot and meagre growing in importance.

Production of freshwater species, which are particularly favored in Eastern Europe, is expected to grow by 144,000 MT to 476,000 MT, with a value increase of EUR 487 million (USD 609.2 million). While rainbow trout and carp will continue to dominate production, an increasing volume of African catfish and sturgeon is predicted, with tilapia and barramundi producers contributing minor amounts.  

Shellfish producers are predicted to increase their output by 30 percent, growing an additional 197,000 MT by 2030, valued at EUR 427 million (USD 534.1 million). The annual growth rate is just 1.3 percent and relies on overcoming issues with ongoing mortalities, especially in oysters.  

EU production of fishmeal and fish oil currently exceeds the amount used by the EU aquafeed industry, and is estimated to be 3.3 percent and 8.1 percent respectively of global use for aquaculture. Additional feed requirements by 2030 would only exceed EU fishmeal and fish oil supply if it was all sourced locally. However, there is increasing potential for partial replacement of marine proteins and oils, which will reduce the impact on EU fish stocks. The report considers that if EU aquaculture does not grow, then EU fishmeal and fish oil would be diverted to produce fish and shrimp in other countries, which would be returned to EU consumers in these forms.

Production of seaweeds, crustaceans such as freshwater crayfish and a few prawn species, and molluscs including octopus ad sea urchins is relatively new in the EU, but is expected to grow in importance. In particular, the report predicts increasing use of multi-trophic aquaculture systems, where species such as salmon, seaweed and mussels are combined in a production area to make best use of space and to mitigate environmental impacts.

Click here to read the full 100 page study >

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