Farmed fish is not ‘second class’

By

Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
October 21, 2009

Affordability and fewer “food miles” could quash prejudices about buying farmed fish among European consumers, according to the head of Italy’s fish-farming association.

“We have to fight a battle for culture to eliminate prejudices about farmed fish, which is by no means a second class product, and to promote local products even in public catering, such as canteens in schools and hospitals,” said Pier Antonio Salvador, president of the Italian Fish Farming Association.

Salvador’s remarks come on the heels the inaugural Acquacoltura Med 2009 trade show, which opened in Verona, Italy, on Thursday. The event focuses on sustainable seafood farming and processing, with a concentration on Mediterranean and Persian Gulf countries.

“We believe that farmed fish better satisfy needs of a ‘social character,’ offering everyone, even disadvantaged classes, the chance to eat fish at least twice a week,” said Salvador.

Currently, annual farmed fish production in the European Union totals 1.3 million metric tons and is valued at about EUR 3 billion (USD 4.5 billion). This represents about one-fifth of the total volume and one-third of the total value of EU seafood production.

While fish farming is big business globally, the EU has yet to harness its potential. Worldwide, aquaculture is growing at faster rate than any other food-production industry, at an annual average of between 6 and 8 percent, according to the European Commission. In 2006, global farmed seafood production reached almost 52 million metric tons, an increase of one-third from 2000.

In addition to affordability, farmed fish can be marketed as sustainable to further hook consumers, said Salvador.

“It is pointless to require Italian and European breeders to uphold certain rearing rules when reciprocity is not applied in commerce and even in preliminary breeding, processing and food-safety stages,” said Salvador, adding that the solution is to promote local products, or “a kind of zero kilometer” approach.

“The Italian minister for agricultural policies, Luca Zaia, is carrying forward a correct policy in favor of local produce,” he said. That, according to Salvador, could help boost sales of trout, a species that’s raised in abundance in Italy. “We must see trout in school canteens instead of plaice, bass and catfish,” he said.

Acquacoltura Med 2009 runs through Saturday. Topics on the agenda include dietary aspects in fish breeding, innovations in breeding techniques, legislation governing fish farming in Italy, Europe and the Persian Gulf, and production costs and market prospects throughout the Mediterranean.

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