EU fisheries chief: Europe needs to get behind aquaculture
European aquaculture is showing signs of recovery after more than a decade of stagnation, but there needs to be much greater support for the sector from European Union member states, the European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs, and Fisheries Karmenu Vella affirmed.
With four percent growth in volume and eight percent in earnings between 2014 and 2015, and profits exceeding EUR 400 million (USD 495 million), E.U. aquaculture is generating more value than ever before. And yet at the E.U. Aquaculture – Farmed in the E.U. Regions conference, organized by the European Commission (EC) and the Committee of the Regions to showcase some of the success stories of the industry, Vella stressed the need for even greater buy-in from regional decision makers.
“Aquaculture can deliver local food and local jobs in an environment-friendly way. The planning, authorization, and ultimately the success of aquaculture in the E.U. lie in the hands of our regions and member states. We count on you to support investment in this promising industry,” he said.
Vella told delegates that he sees aquaculture as a key pillar of global and European food security.
"We need to plan ahead now to provide more fish, shellfish and algae in a sustainable, responsible way," he said. "Of course, we must continue our work on sustainable wild fisheries, but if we are to get more seafood, it has to come from farming."
Vella further believes that having many small, well-planned farming actions at regional scale, and helping consumers to make informed, responsible choices is the key to success.
“Collectively we can farm more fish while preserving and improving our waters and biodiversity. We can reduce our reliance on imported farmed fish, where environmental credentials may not match our strict standards," Vella said. “At the local scale, it offers citizens high-quality, sustainable seafood while supporting local businesses and communities, and at a global scale, we would consume fish with less ‘food miles’ and greater assurance about production standards."
As part of its support for the sector, the E.C. unveiled a series of new guidelines at the conference on the accommodation of aquaculture within E.U. environmental rules, as well as information on planning and business authorization.
The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) provides EUR 1.2 billion (USD 1.5 billion) wholly for aquaculture. This money is available to help farms invest, grow, become more innovative and efficient, and also to help attract more private investment.
If investments gather pace and the conditions continue to be supportive of the sector, the E.C. said it could foresee the 25 percent growth by 2020 that member states had aimed for when developing their aquaculture plans in 2014. It also said it is ready to collaborate with national and regional authorities to implement the “Farmed in the E.U." communication campaign, which is aimed at helping aquaculture professionals to explain their job to schools across Europe.