AAC: Aquaculture can play key role in European Green Deal
The Aquaculture Advisory Council (AAC), a stakeholder representative organization created to provide official advice to the European Commission, European Parliament, member-states, and various committees, has issued a report stating that aquaculture can play an important role in the implementation of the European Green Deal.
The report was issued as the AAC works through the process of developing advice on consumer information, seaweed production, the data collection framework, food security, and the climate footprint of the E.U. food system.
Aquaculture accounts for 1.4 million metric tons of food production annually in the E.U., at a value of around EUR 4 billion (USD 4.7 billion). Farmed fish and shellfish provide 10 percent of E.U. member-states’ seafood consumption, with the average E.U. citizen eating just over 24 kilos of seafood annually. The ranking of aquaculture species by production volume is led by mussels, followed by trout, oysters, sea bream and sea bass, carp, clams, bluefin tuna, salmon, and turbot. In terms of value, trout is the highest earner, with sea bass, sea bream, oysters, tuna, and mussels following close behind.
The AAC is tasked with scrutinizing the European Union’s legislative, regulatory, and legal measures affecting aquaculture. Recently, the organization recommended that the European Commission develop guidelines for member-states on how to establish a legal framework for granting licences to establish new seaweed farms and expand existing ones, stating that a legal framework is the most important issue to address for this small but growing segment.
Also related to the seaweed sector, the AAC has called for protocols to be developed for identifying optimal sites and optimizing farming technologies. Additionally, farm management systems for seaweed needs to be developed, AAC said, and current food safety legislation needs to be examined to ensure that issues related to seaweed labeling are properly addressed.
AAC recommended the creation of an E.U. certification standard, which it said could accelerate market development and build consumer confidence in seaweed. It recommended a deeper study of the joint seaweed standard developed by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and launched in 2018.
The AAC also recommended a further study of the potential of aquaculture to augment food security in different regions of the E.U., and called for the E.U. to make it easier to obtain licenses and access to space in order to increase primary production in a sustainable way to meet food security needs.
The AAC’s recommendations on consumer information stress the importance of having correct and complete product information on labeling for the consumer, to enable them to make informed and responsible purchasing choices. Better labeling would also help to raise awareness of the quality of E.U. aquaculture products, it said.
The council found inadequate and misleading consumer information on seafood products frequently takes place in the hotel, restaurant, and catering (HORECA) sector, and it advised the E.U. to address "as a matter of urgency" issues of mislabeling, including seafood being sold with false, unlisted, or multiple countries of origin; defrosted products sold as fresh; false or missing fish species information; farmed fish being sold as captured fish; and product labeling containing insufficient information to enable consumers to make animal welfare-based choices.
The latest recommendation from the AAC, published at the end of March 2021, addresses the climate footprint of the E.U. food system in response to the European Green Deal (EGD), which sets out how to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.
The AAC contends Europe's aquaculture sector can contribute to the EGD by improving the use of aquatic resources, by promoting new sources of protein, and by further developing aquaculture systems with low carbon footprints, such as algae and bivalves. But it warned there is currently no commonly accepted methodology for assessing climate impact, so it is difficult to compare different aquaculture products on the market.
The AAC pressed the need for the creation of a common E.U. life-cycle assessment tool for quantifying climate impact at the farm level, and called for a common food policy aimed at reducing the environmental and climate footprint of the E.U. food system to ensure EGD targets can be met. It further emphasized the importance of the circular economy in aquaculture, the importance of exploring new forms of energy efficiency and energy production, and proposed the introduction of national and E.U. policies for promoting climate-friendly public procurement.
The AAC also stressed that seafood not complying with E.U. environmental standards should not be imported to E.U. markets, and that minimum standards for sustainability should be introduced. The E.U. should also be fostering development and use of alternative feed materials from responsible and sustainable sources, such as insects, marine algae, and byproducts such as fish waste, the AAC said.
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