European aquaculture is stagnating by contrast with increasing rates of aquaculture production at world level and, in particular, in Asia. To try to dampen this trend, the Commission published two communications with strategies for developing European aquaculture, one in 2002 and another in 2009. The 2002 strategy failed to increase European production, and since then competition from third countries has sharply increased, there have been several market crises, and the global economic crisis has hit the aquaculture market and industry. This led to the publication in 2013 of a third Commission communication, aimed at achieving the sustainable development of EU aquaculture and proposing strategic guidelines.
European aquaculture production remained relatively stable around the figure of 1.2 million tonnes over the period 1995-2012, peaking at 1.4 million tonnes in the year 2000. In 2002 it stood at 1.25 million tonnes, accounting for 20% of total fisheries production. The value of European aquaculture production reached EUR 3.6 billion in 2011: of this, 50% came from fish products and 50% from crustaceans and molluscs. EU aquaculture focuses primarily on four species: mussels (39% of total volume), trout (15%), salmon (14%) and oysters (8%). However, there has been some development in production of other species such as sea bass, sea bream and clams.
The main aquaculture producers among the EU Member States are Spain (22%) France (17%), the United Kingdom (16%), Italy (13%) and Greece (8.5%), which together accounted for around 77% of total aquaculture production in 2011. However, in terms of the value of production, the UK is the leading producer (21%), followed by France (19%), Greece (13%) and Spain (12%). Bivalve molluscs (mussels, oysters and clams) are dominant in Spain, France and Italy. The UK produces mainly salmon, while Greece produces mainly sea bass and sea bream.
In order to tackle the stagnation of aquaculture production, the Commission published, in 2002, a communication (COM(2002) 0511) entitled ‘A strategy for the sustainable development of European aquaculture’. The objectives of the strategy were:
However, the strategy did not achieve its objectives, particularly as regards increasing production and employment: neither the target of a 4% growth rate nor that of 8 000 to 10 000 new jobs was achieved.
The main problem for the aquaculture sector was the lack of production growth, in stark contrast with the high growth rate in the rest of the world. However, the sector has seen good progress in areas such as ensuring availability of quality products to the consumer and ensuring environmental sustainability.
In addition to the traditional obstacles and constraints, since 2002 European aquaculture has met with increased competition from production in third countries, and has had to face crises of governance and, most recently, the effects of the economic crisis.
Only seven years later, on 8 April 2009, did the Commission publish its second communication (COM(2009) 0162) on aquaculture, in order to identify and address the causes of the stagnation of EU aquaculture production. This new communication was entitled ‘Building a sustainable future for aquaculture: A new impetus for the Strategy for the Sustainable Development of European Aquaculture’. It aimed to ensure that the EU remains a key player in a strategic sector, increasing production and employment by implementing the following actions:
The Strategic Guidelines (COM(2013) 0229) published by the Commission on 29 April 2013 aim to assist the Member States in defining their own national targets, taking account of their relative starting positions, national circumstances and institutional arrangements. The Guidelines address four priority areas:
As established in the new basic regulation for the CFP (Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013, Article 34), Member States were due to submit multiannual national strategic plans for the development of aquaculture activities on their territory for the period 2014-2020, by 30 June 2014. The Commission shall encourage the exchange of information and best practices among Member States and shall facilitate the coordination of the national measures foreseen in the multiannual national strategic plans. In addition, Member States are encouraged to carry out a mid-term assessment of the implementation of their multiannual national strategic plans for aquaculture by the end of 2017.
Parliament has adopted numerous resolutions aimed at further strengthening the EU’s aquaculture sector. The most recent ones include:
Marcus Ernst Gerhard Breuer