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Is Aquaculture In Meeting World Demand For Fish?

Questions and Answers on aquaculture: How important is aquaculture in meeting world demand for fish?

While catches of wild capture fish levelled off globally in the 1980s, consumption of fish doubled over the period 1973-2003. The consumption of freshwater fish, in particular, has increased massively, especially in East Asia, and crustaceans and bivalve molluscs have also seen large increases in demand. At the same time, aquaculture production has increased dramatically to keep pace, primarily but not exclusively in Asia. While projections are difficult to make, all indications are that per capita consumption of fish is set to continue to rise. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, most of this future increase in demand is likely to be met from aquaculture and aquaculture production worldwide would have to double by 2030 to keep pace with the demand, which represents an increase of 40 million tons a year

How important is EU aquaculture production?

According to the latest data available (2004), EU aquaculture accounted for 2.3% of world aquaculture production, or some 1.38 million tonnes. This represents however a value close to € 2.8 billion i.e. 7.5% of the value of world aquaculture production or roughly 30% by value of total EU fishery production. However, these figures also vary considerably from sector to sector. EU production thus represents 5.7% of world shellfish production by weight, and only1.3% for freshwater fish, but 10.9% for marine fish.

It appears that growth in EU aquaculture production has slowed just as it is rising in other parts of the world. While global production rose by around 9% annually from 1995 to 2004, Eu-27 production grew by only 3 to 4% a year up to 1999, and may be considered to have stagnated since then. This stasis itself disguises a decrease in mollusc and freshwater fish production, offset by a continuing increase in marine fish.

Aquaculture is also important as an employer, often in areas with few alternative sources of employment, representing an estimated 65 000 jobs in 2002-2003.

What challenges does the EU aquaculture industry face?

The EU is well-placed to capitalise on the global growth in aquaculture. Europe has a strong market for seafood, a long tradition of freshwater and marine fish and shellfish cultivation, dynamic and advanced research, modern technology, qualified and trained entrepreneurs and fish farmers, suitable climatic conditions and sites for the species currently farmed.

However, as the consultation has confirmed, the EU aquaculture sector also faces a number of challenges which have an impact on production. These include limitation of space and of water of good quality, and measures to protect public health and the environment. The high EU standards put European aquaculture at the forefront of sustainable development in the world, both in terms of social and environmental impacts, but make it more difficult to compete price-wise with third-country producers especially in Asia and in South-America where aquaculture production growth is the highest in the world.

What has the EU done to help the aquaculture industry overcome these hurdles?

In 2002, the European Commission presented a Communication on a Strategy for the sustainable development of European aquaculture, which gave a long-term vision of aquaculture aimed at reaching the status of a stable industry guaranteeing long-term secure employment, which was able to cope with the main problems identified, ensuring health and environmental protection.

Considerable efforts have been made at EU level since then, in particular to support the sustainable growth of the sector. The European Fisheries Fund adopted in June 2006 will give Member States the possibility to support, among other things, innovative and environmentally friendly aquaculture projects over the programming period 2007-2013. Calls and projects under the EU's 7th Research Framework programme are also being developed which will offer new opportunities to tackle scientific and technological challenges faced by aquaculture.

How will the new EU Integrated Maritime Policy affect the EU aquaculture industry?

The future of the EU aquaculture sector needs to be seen in the broader context of the maritime sector as a whole. The new Integrated Maritime Policy at EU level will facilitate this, in particular when it comes to one of the main impediments to further development, namely access to space. More coherent and coordinated mechanisms for maritime spatial planning, for example, which take all the competing activities into account from the beginning, should be able to provide a more supportive regulatory environment into which to launch new aquaculture initiatives or expand existing facilities.

Why is the Commission organising this conference now?

Five years after the launch of the 2002 Strategy, the time has come to take stock of progress made so far. The Commission therefore decided to launch a debate this summer with all stakeholders on the further development of sustainable aquaculture in the European Union. The results of that consultation have now been analysed, and this conference will provide an opportunity to advance the debate on which areas of aquaculture provide the potential for further sustainable growth over the coming years, and how the public authorities can act to support that development. This should result in a revised EU strategy for aquaculture by the end of 2008.


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