REPORT on striving for a sustainable and competitive EU aquaculture: the way forward
19.7.2022 - (2021/2189(INI))
Committee on Fisheries
Rapporteur: Clara Aguilera
MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
INFORMATION ON ADOPTION IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE
FINAL VOTE BY ROLL CALL IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE
MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
on striving for a sustainable and competitive EU aquaculture: the way forward
The European Parliament,
– having regard to the Commission communication of 12 May 2021 on strategic guidelines for a more sustainable and competitive EU aquaculture for the period 2021 to 2030 (COM(2021)0236),
– having regard to the Commission communication of 25 March 2021 on an action plan for the development of organic production (COM(2021)0141),
– having regard to the Commission communication of 20 May 2020 entitled ‘A Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system’ (COM(2020)0381), and to Parliament’s resolution of 20 October 2021 thereon,
– having regard to the Commission communication of 20 May 2020 entitled ‘EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 – Bringing nature back into our lives’ (COM(2020)0380), and to Parliament’s resolution of 9 June 2021 thereon,
– having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy, amending Council Regulations (EC) No 1954/2003 and (EC) No 1224/2009 and repealing Council Regulations (EC) No 2371/2002 and (EC) No 639/2004 and Council Decision 2004/585/EC,
– having regard to Regulation (EU) 2021/1139 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 July 2021 establishing the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund and amending Regulation (EU) 2017/1004,
– having regard to Directive 2014/89/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 2014 establishing a framework of maritime spatial planning,
– having regard to Directive 2009/147/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on the conservation of wild birds (the ‘Birds Directive’),
– having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 of 24 September on the protection of animals at the time of killing,
– having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 of 22 December 2004 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations,
– having regard to Council Directive 98/58/EC of 20 July 1998 concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes,
– having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 22 September 2021 on strategic guidelines for the sustainable development of EU aquaculture,
– having regard to the draft opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 1-3 December 2021 on sustainable blue economy and aquaculture,
– having regard to the Opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 17 December 2015 on the future of European aquaculture,
– having regard to the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) 2030 Strategy for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea,
– having regard to the interim evaluation of the Open Method of Coordination for EU aquaculture,
– having regard to Special Eurobarometer 515 of 2021 on EU consumer habits regarding fishery and aquaculture products,
– having regard to the study requested by its Committee on Fisheries (PECH) on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on EU fisheries and aquaculture, published on 7 July 2021,
– having regard to its resolution of 12 June 2018 entitled ‘towards a sustainable and competitive European aquaculture sector: current status and future challenges’,
– having regard to its resolution of 4 December 2008 on the adoption of a European Cormorant Management Plan to minimise the increasing impact of cormorants on fish stocks, fishing and aquaculture,
– having regard to Articles 3, 4, 38 and 43 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,
– having regard to the Treaty on European Union (TEU),
– having regard to Rule 54 of its Rules of Procedure,
– having regard to the report of the Committee on Fisheries (A9-0215/2022),
A. whereas the common fisheries policy states that aquaculture should contribute to the preservation of food production potential on a sustainable basis throughout the Union so as to guarantee long-term food security, including food supplies, growth and employment for Union citizens, and contribute to meeting the growing world demand for aquatic food; whereas the common fisheries policy should pay full regard to animal health, animal welfare, food and feed safety; whereas it is crucial to reduce the administrative burden and implement Union law in a more efficient manner that is more responsive to the needs of stakeholders;
B. whereas the shellfish and aquaculture sectors play an important and valuable role in the EU from an economic, social and environmental perspective, and help to improve the quality of life in coastal, interior and outermost regions of the EU;
C. whereas the food security and livelihoods that these industries provide are crucial in many coastal, riverine, island, inland and lagoon regions;
D. whereas the European Green Deal, the biodiversity strategy and the farm to fork strategy aim to achieve a carbon neutral Europe by 2050 and make food systems fair, healthy and environmentally friendly across the Union; whereas aquaculture can provide healthy food with a smaller climate and environmental footprint than that of non-aquatic land-based farming;
E. whereas the FAO Declaration for Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture acknowledges that aquaculture has been the fastest growing global food production industry over the last five decades, and that it is responsible for the doubling of global per capita fish consumption since 1960 and has increasingly provided food and livelihoods to a growing population;
F. whereas the EU strategic guidelines for a more sustainable and competitive EU aquaculture , the FAO Shanghai Declaration of September 2021 on aquaculture for food and sustainable development, and the 2021 Aquatic Animal Health Code of the World Organisation for Animal Health establish animal welfare objectives in aquaculture to support producers and consumers;
G. whereas EU aquaculture production accounts for just 1.15 % of global production, according to the most recent figures (2018);
H. whereas the establishment or expansion of an aquaculture farm in the EU requires various licences and authorisations and is generally a slow, complex procedure that sometimes lacks legal certainty and economic predictability; whereas this situation hinders the development of the sector, discouraging corporate investment and generating excessive costs for the sector, while promoting imports from third countries;
I. whereas the FAO 2020 report on the state of world fisheries and aquaculture indicates that globally, the proportion of women in the total aquaculture workforce (19 %) is larger than that in fisheries (12 %) and that overall, women play a crucial role throughout the fish and aquaculture value chain and provide labour relating to both general commercial practices and artisanal practices; whereas the aquaculture sector in general directly employs more than 74 000 people in the EU in more than 12 000 companies;
J. whereas one in every four seafood products consumed in Europe comes from aquaculture; whereas between 2018 and 2019, per capita apparent consumption of farmed products increased by 2 %; whereas considering that in 2019, the EU was 41.2 % self-sufficient in fish and seafood, only 10 % of EU seafood consumption comes from EU aquaculture, which accounts for less than 2 % of global production;
K. whereas almost 70 % of aquaculture production in the EU is concentrated in four Member States (Spain, France, Italy and Greece), with mussels, trout, seabream, oysters, seabass, carp and clams accounting for the vast majority of production; whereas there is still a lot of potential for further growth and diversification in terms of producing countries and species farmed;
L. whereas although nearly two thirds of Europeans ate fishery or aquaculture products at home at least once a month in 2021, this is a downward trend compared to 2018; whereas consumers in 2021 were divided regarding their preference for wild or farmed products, with around a third preferring wild products, a third preferring farmed products and a similar proportion having no preference;
M. whereas some initial estimates point to a 17 % reduction in sales volume and an 18 % reduction in total income, with a particularly harsh impact on the shellfish sector;
N. whereas EU shellfish production consists mainly of molluscs, specifically mussels, oysters and clams, and is generally a traditional, labour-intensive aquaculture activity carried out by family businesses, that is fully integrated into the local environment;
O. whereas the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean 2030 strategy for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture in the Mediterranean and Black Sea specifies that aquaculture production needs to meet demand, grow sustainably, capitalise on innovation, digitalisation and knowledge sharing and enhance its attractiveness for investment; whereas the strategy further states that monitoring and reducing the sector’s environmental footprint, dealing with climate change and pollution and securing animal health and welfare are crucial in achieving sustainability;
P. whereas the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries’ 2020 economic report on the EU aquaculture sector indicates that almost 80 % of all aquaculture enterprises in the EU are microenterprises with fewer than 10 employees;
Q. whereas the interim evaluation of the Open Method of Coordination concluded that the Member States should make greater efforts to expand the EU’s aquaculture sector, enhancing its resilience and competitiveness, and guaranteeing, in particular, access to space and water, and a transparent and efficient regulatory and administrative framework;
R. whereas, despite the sector’s potential, the development of aquaculture in the outermost regions still lags seriously behind;
S. whereas the European Market Observatory for fisheries and aquaculture’s fishmeal and fish oil report from September 2021 indicates that most fishmeal in aquaculture feed is consumed in Asia and that in 2019, 34 % of fishmeal was used in China, 35 % in other Asian countries, and 9 % of fishmeal was used in Europe; whereas 20 million tonnes of wild fish are captured yearly for non-human feed purposes; whereas there is increasing competition for fishmeal on the global animal feed markets between aquaculture and livestock producers; whereas higher feed prices increase the need for further development of alternative feed products as well as feed efficiency to ensure profitability for high-value aquaculture products;
T. whereas the FAO fisheries and aquaculture technical paper of 19 February 2019 entitled ‘A third assessment of global marine fisheries discards’ shows that discards amount to a total of 9.1 million tonnes, which represents 10.8 % of the annual average catch between 2010 and 2014;
U. whereas the European Market Observatory for fisheries and aquaculture’s report of May 2017 on EU organic aquaculture from indicates that organic aquaculture production is increasing significantly in some Member States, while others are still in the early stages of developing this production method;
V. whereas aquaculture is especially sensitive to extreme weather events in riverbeds and coastal areas that are increasingly occurring due to global warming, including droughts, floods, storms and waves, which cause severe damage to aquaculture infrastructures and the species cultivated;
W. whereas Directive 2014/89/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 2014 establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning calls for all coastal Member States to present national maritime spatial plans to the Commission ‘as soon as possible, and at the latest by 31 March 2021’;
X. whereas the outermost regions are particularly exposed to unstable climates and severe weather events, which may jeopardise the sector’s potential in those regions;
Y. whereas the population of cormorants has seen a massive increase; whereas this increase is causing serious damage to many marine sectors, including aquaculture;
Z. whereas in its resolution on the adoption of a European cormorant management plan to minimise the increasing impact of cormorants on fish stocks, fishing and aquaculture, adopted 13 years ago, Parliament proposed several possible actions to solve the problems that cormorants continue to pose;
AA. whereas its resolution entitled ‘Towards a sustainable and competitive European aquaculture sector’ highlights the importance, among many other actions, of minimising the increasing impact of cormorants on aquaculture;
AB. whereas financial compensation is available to aquaculture and fisheries operators for losses deriving from cormorants’ interaction with fisheries;
AC. whereas the entire aquaculture sector in Europe will have to bear the burden of increasing electricity and gas costs, with an even worse outlook due to rising production costs and marketing uncertainty caused also by the COVID-19 pandemic crisis;
AD. whereas large fish and fish product producers in the EU neighbourhood area are planning by 2030 to double their aquaculture production compared to 2020 levels, which could ramp up the pressure on the EU’s production;
AE. whereas not all Member States are giving sufficient consideration to the potential of aquaculture development or its potential socioeconomic and environmental effects;
AF. whereas the annual consumption of fish products per capita in the EU varies very widely, from approximately 6 kg to approximately 60 kg; whereas demand for aquaculture products in the EU could therefore increase in the foreseeable future;
AG. whereas many enterprises are finding it difficult to maintain their market share, both domestically and abroad;
AH. whereas, according to the most recent data from Eurostat and the FAO, in 2019 around 76 % of the fish consumed in the EU was wild and 24 % was farmed;
AI. whereas there are only 62 products with protected geographical indication (PGI) registered in Class 1.7. — Fresh fish, molluscs, and crustaceans and products derived therefrom, out of a total of 1 382 PGI products; whereas protection procedures are under way for 14 other products; whereas the register of Traditional Specialities Guaranteed (TSG) foods contains just four products in that class; whereas some of the successful registrations have been for aquaculture products;
AJ. whereas the EU fisheries funds (the European Fisheries Fund (EFF), the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and the European Maritime, fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF)) have provided financial support to the EU aquaculture sector;
AK. whereas escapees from aquaculture farms can cause genetic alterations in wild populations;
Aquaculture’s contribution to the European Green Deal
1. Welcomes the Commission communication on the strategic guidelines for a more sustainable and competitive EU aquaculture for the period 2021 to 2030; considers these guidelines comprehensive, sound and fit for the purpose of promoting sustainable and competitive EU aquaculture with a long-term focus on the sustainability of the aquaculture sector and on its contribution to the European Green Deal; regrets, however, the fact that they are much focused on environmental aspects and that they need more ambition to boost sustainable production and the development of a genuinely thriving and competitive EU aquaculture sector; considers that it is important to establish quantitative objectives for the growth of this sector in the framework of the guidelines, just as the biodiversity strategy, the farm to fork strategy and other Green Deal strategies set environmental targets; urges the Members States and the Aquaculture Advisory Council to implement the actions recommended in the guidelines; calls on the Commission to regularly monitor compliance with these recommendations and to keep Parliament informed;
2. Emphasises the importance of proper and coordinated implementation of the guidelines by Member States in order to achieve their objectives; points out the importance of the role of the Commission in assisting and coordinating the implementation among Member States to ensure a level playing field for EU aquaculture farmers; encourages the Commission to continuously follow the implementation of these guidelines and other legal acts affecting aquaculture such as the Regulation on organic production and labelling of organic products and if appropriate to present amendments to this regulation, and potentially others, with a view to addressing hurdles hampering the realisation of EU objectives on organic production, such as those set out in the farm to fork strategy;
3. Highlights the potential of the aquaculture sector’s contributions to achieving the objectives of the European Green Deal, and highlights the need to ensure the long-term sustainability and resilience of the sector, notably in the light of the COVID-19 crisis; considers that the transition to a sustainable food system in Europe needs to take advantage of the untapped potential in the aquaculture sector as it can play an important and even bigger part in the circular economy and as a net contributor to the transformation of excess nutrients into high-quality protein;
4. Underlines that EU aquaculture meets high standards in terms of product quality and animal health, but that there is still margin for improvement in terms of diversification, competitiveness and environmental performance; notes that low-impact aquaculture (such as low-trophic, multitrophic and organic aquaculture), and environmental services from aquaculture can, if further developed, greatly contribute to the European Green Deal, to the farm-to-fork strategy and to a sustainable blue economy;
5. Points out that aquaculture is expected to contribute to food supply and food security by rebalancing the fish gap, since the EU imports 70 % of all the aquatic food it consumes and that causes an annual EUR 21 billion trade deficit (in 2019); considers that aquaculture has sizeable development and growth potential that needs to be enhanced while remaining within ecological limits, so that it can provide sustainable and quality food products, reduce our dependence on aquatic food imports and create more jobs and other socioeconomic opportunities, especially in coastal regions but also in rural areas; calls on the Commission and the Member States to provide a robust, reliable, predictable, streamlined and business-friendly legal framework, and making full use of the available financing resources of the EMFAF, as this is the funding instrument specifically dedicated to the objectives of EU fisheries and aquaculture management; urges Member States to earmark sufficient funding under the Recovery and Resilience Facility to support the innovation, sustainability and resilience of the EU aquaculture sector;
6. Underlines that aquaculture was developed as a social necessity to provide a constant supply of fresh aquatic food in seasons and regions where capture fisheries failed to deliver it, thus fulfilling one of the most important roles for society: the provision of healthy fresh food mainly for the local or regional market; stresses therefore that the expansion of aquaculture in Europe is strongly linked to traditional cultural practices, which are more or less specific to their own particular part of the continent;
7. Points out the importance of precise data and statistics for aquaculture products, especially in relation to consumption, imports and exports, in order to ensure that we are reaching the targets and objectives we are setting for the sector; calls for more data to be made available and accessible in this regard;
8. Points out that the external trade imbalance in aquatic products produced in the Union is unacceptable, both from an economic point of view, given the trade deficit that this entails, and from a social point of view, given the missed opportunities for employment;
9. Stresses that progress towards the objectives of the European Green Deal must be aligned with ensuring the food security of third countries;
10. Supports the establishment of the new EU aquaculture assistance mechanism as an innovative tool to aid the Commission, Member States, regional authorities, industry and other stakeholders to develop further guidance and consolidate best practices on different relevant areas; considers that all relevant stakeholders, including Parliament, should be involved in the creation of this mechanism, in particular all members of the Aquaculture Advisory Council, in accordance with Article 11 TEU that recognises participatory democracy as a fundamental democratic principle; calls for the creation of meaningful dialogue with civil society;
11. Stresses that the growth potential of the EU aquaculture sector needs to be developed in a sustainable manner, taking all three pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental – into consideration; points out the need to have an attractive and market-oriented sector, also for new fish farmers, with a legal framework for attracting business investments, creating and maintaining good working conditions, and protecting the environment by using sustainable feed sources and improving aquatic health, animal welfare and biosecurity, as well as reducing the use of antimicrobials in accordance with the best available scientific advice, encouraging responsible and prudent practices, in line with the farm to fork strategy;
12. Considers that the aquaculture sector is capable of providing a consistent contribution to ecosystem services for society, and that pond aquaculture, algae and shellfish farming can contribute to decarbonising the EU economy and mitigating climate change; stresses, however, that carbon sequestration by algae and shellfish farming is limited depending on the production method and use when the product is harvested; supports the proposed actions on climate change but highlights the need for a common methodology to measure the carbon footprint of individual aquaculture farms and requests an impact assessment for all the proposed measures including their impact on individual aquaculture sectors; calls on Member States to promote efficient short supply chains, where appropriate, with a view to contributing to the combat against climate change;
13. Believes that large-scale investment is required through mitigation and adaptation measures to prevent and reduce the impact of catastrophes and extreme weather events on the fishing and aquaculture sectors, with a view to strengthening productive and resilient aquatic ecosystems and maintaining benefits for consumers and animal welfare;
14. Points out that the implementation of the strategic guidelines should pay more attention to micro and small aquaculture enterprises and their specific needs;
15. Urges the Commission to support the establishment of vocational training courses for the aquaculture sector by providing technical and financial resources, in order to attract young people and allow fishermen to retrain, which will help to create jobs in coastal and island regions that are traditionally more dependent on fishing activities;
16. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to facilitate, encourage and provide adequate support for environmentally friendly aquaculture, such as organic aquaculture, closed-system aquaculture, algae, shellfish, pond fish farming and integrated multi-trophic and aquaponic aquaculture systems;
17. Takes the view that support should be provided for developing aquaponic systems, which are closed production systems on land that combine aquaculture production with crop production, with the latter using the organic matter in the water, thereby reducing the effects of pollution caused by excess organic matter;
18. Considers that freshwater aquaculture is very important in many rural regions of Europe, and provides not only high-quality food and employment but also interesting ecosystem services; calls on the Commission to generalise the use of the term ‘aquatic food’ which is a more comprehensive and inclusive expression and does not leave freshwater farmers behind;
19. Points out that for freshwater aquaculture in particular, predators and drought also pose a challenge, reflected in the quantity, size and quality of farmed fish, and they ultimately have a negative impact on the profitability of the sector;
20. Reiterates the need for a food traceability system in the EU that enhances the sustainability of the aquaculture sector and responds to consumer demands by providing information on where, when, how and what fish or aquatic food has been farmed, primarily to improve food safety but also to enable checks throughout the chain of both EU products and imports from outside the EU and to combat fraud; believes that this system should involve all actors in the value chain, so that they can collaborate with one another using digital systems, artificial intelligence and other technological innovations;
21. Highlights the value that European consumers place on quality designations, including both designations of origin and protected geographical indications; calls on the Commission and the Member States to encourage their use in aquaculture products that offer the necessary qualities and meet the requirements laid down in the European Regulation on quality, for example the Mexillón de Galicia PDO;
22. Welcomes the Commission’s intention to support green business models, such as those based on carbon sequestration, in order to make supply chains more sustainable; stresses, in this regard, that certain aquaculture practices, such as mussel or oyster farming and pond polyculture, can be successful models for future emissions credit systems, in the context of EU climate legislation; calls on the Commission and the Member States to support this type of green business in the light of the strategy’s objectives;
23. Highlights the importance of applying evidence-based standards and interventions to improve fish welfare during keeping, transport and slaughter, including maintaining water quality within welfare and environment-relevant limits, as a way of reducing the prevalence and spread of diseases and further diminishing the need for the use of antibiotics, which in any case should be further reduced; calls for particular attention to be paid to feeding methods in order to control levels of organic matter, whether in open or closed circuits, with the aim of maintaining and improving good environmental practises; highlights the importance of continuing to improve farming methods in line with the most up-to-date scientific knowledge available in order to achieve animal welfare that contributes to better environmental results, resilience against climate change and the optimisation of resource use;
24. Reiterates that various recommendations on animal welfare do not apply to the fisheries and aquaculture sectors because of their nature;
25. Calls on the Member States to continue encouraging the promotion of algae farming and facilitate the use and development of algae as food and feed, including by enabling easier authorisation processes, without neglecting other aquaculture farmed species; highlights that there is untapped potential in algae farming for creating new jobs and providing ecosystem services and more environmentally friendly food and feed; considers that better managing algae populations could to a certain extent be an effective way, in addition to their farming, to help combat eutrophication and remove excess nitrogen and phosphorus from water, as well as excess carbon if the algae remain in the water and are left to deposit on the seafloor; welcomes the Commission’s intention to present a specific initiative to support algae consumption in the EU; points out that better protecting seaweed populations may provide ecosystem services, act as a carbon sink and contribute to improving biodiversity;
26. Welcomes the role of women in aquaculture value chains and urges accordingly that they be guaranteed decent working conditions and that the principle of equal pay for equal work or work of equal value be respected; considers further that their visibility and representation in decision-making structures and processes should be enhanced;
Main obstacles to aquaculture in the Union and possible solutions
27. Urges the Commission and the Member States to ensure that national plans for the sustainable development of aquaculture take into account the main barriers to the development of the potential of the sector and to recognise the need to allocate space to aquaculture through appropriate spatial planning; highlights the importance of a transparent and participative mechanism, in line with Directive 2014/89/EU on maritime spatial planning, for allocating space, including to existing and new fishing grounds and aquaculture farms and marine protected areas as well as fisheries restricted areas to all stakeholders in an equitable manner; regrets that some Member States have yet to present to the Commission their national maritime spatial plans, despite the deadline laid down in the directive, and urges them to present their plans as soon as possible;
28. Supports the aim of the Commission to initiate promotion campaigns to encourage consumption of EU aquaculture products and highlight EU aquaculture and to further support its sustainable development; highlights the need in this regard for comprehensive and easy-to-access consumer information including on healthy diets, environmental benefits and other sustainability parameters such as climate impact;
29. Considers that aquaculture production sites planned and established in open water should not coincide or conflict with fishing zones; considers, further, that the fisheries sector and its operators and representatives should be fully involved in this process;
30. Points out that EU aquaculture production remains highly concentrated in terms of both Member States and species farmed, so there is significant potential for diversification;
31. Points out that spatial planning is one of the key tools for creating the preconditions for the long-term development of aquaculture and should ensure suitable planning locations for aquaculture, taking into account other activities in the areas concerned;
32. Stresses that the development of aquaculture requires a solid, reliable, clear and administratively simple legal framework for the use of space and licences that provides confidence and security for investment in the sector; stresses that spatial planning should result in an effective and flexible plan that considers the ever-changing marine and freshwater environments within which aquaculture functions, and that overly restrictive zoning may deter investment and development;
33. Highlights the importance of legal certainty and investment predictability for the sustainable growth of the Union’s aquaculture sector; stresses that all of the measures adopted by the various public authorities in the Member States must help to simplify administrative deadlines and procedures, so that public administrations fulfil their requirements, resolve issues on time and avoid unnecessary delays in authorisation or licensing procedures; rejects retroactive action reducing the period of validity of licences or extensions, and calls on the Member States to safeguard the confidence and legitimate expectations of licence holders;
34. Points out that, in terms of licensing and planning, existing bureaucratic complexity and delays result in additional costs for potential investors; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure clear and transparent licensing procedures in order to encourage investors;
35. Stresses that the Open Method of Coordination should be further implemented to achieve coordination with national, regional and local public administrations that have competences in the aquaculture sector; considers this coordination very necessary for streamlining national legislation and providing guidance on the regulatory framework applicable to the sector; calls on the Commission to publish country-specific recommendations to provide the Member States with guidance concerning the development of EU aquaculture;
36. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure better coordination as regards the EU’s shared competences, and coordination among national, regional and local authorities;
37. Stresses the importance of sustainable feed ingredients for aquaculture in the Union; considers that aquaculture can only fill the fish gap if all species farmed provide a net gain in fish protein, meaning that aquaculture does not remove more wild fish from the oceans and other bodies of water for feed requirements than it produces; highlights that globally, a large share of fish used to produce fishmeal and fish oil is caught in the exclusive economic zones of developing countries; stresses the need to promote ecologically sustainable marine proteins and oils to be used as feed in the form of by-products and trimmings, other proteins and innovative solutions, such as insect meal and microalgae, and the partial replacement of marine proteins and oils with non-marine alternatives that are sustainably produced; calls on the Commission and the Member States to invest in research and innovation in order to promote a transition to sustainable and new sources of protein and asks the Commission to assess whether any legislative changes are needed in this regard; calls on the Commission and the Member States to promote sustainable practices and increase the percentage of independently certified fishmeal and fish oil within feeds, with certification carried out by credible and independent environmental and social certification schemes that use low trophic index assessment criteria and the FAO code of conduct;
38. Acknowledges the fact that it is not currently possible to provide enough fishmeal and fish oil to aquaculture with just discards and by-products from the fishing industry, in part because of increasing demand on the fishmeal market; calls on the Commission and Member States to ensure sustainable fishmeal and fish oil production and to jointly step up efforts on research and innovation to solve the problem of increased demand on the fishmeal market by developing sustainable alternatives;
39. Is concerned about the growing number of fishmeal and fish oil factories along the West African coast, managed mainly by Chinese companies whose unsustainable production is causing existential problems for regional and non-industrial fisheries, and calls on the Commission therefore to ensure that no feed from such production is used in aquaculture facilities within the EU;
40. Calls on the Commission to use digital systems and artificial intelligence to improve the traceability and sustainability of aquaculture products and to extend traceability to the feed used;
41. Calls on the Commission to acknowledge the importance of conducting EU-wide communication campaigns about sustainable EU aquaculture and the importance of production with funds under direct management in line with the objectives of the strategic guidelines; calls on the Member States and the Commission to include the organisation of information and communication campaigns in all operational programmes, in line with the objectives of the strategic guidelines, on specific subsectors of sustainable EU aquaculture;
42. Urges the Commission to promote programmes under the EU agricultural promotion policy through which aquaculture products can be promoted specifically and individually; stresses the importance of making use of the current review of the agricultural promotion policy to better position the promotion of sustainable aquaculture products and encourages the Commission to use the agricultural promotion policy to support sectors and operators that inherently contribute to, or lead the transition towards, achieving the objectives of the Green Deal;
43. Welcomes the quality of the work carried out by the European Market Observatory for fisheries and aquaculture (EUMOFA); calls on the Commission to give EUMOFA additional targeted funding to translate the Observatory’s reports into all EU official languages as they are often available in only one or no more than five official EU languages; believes that such information will help the aquaculture sector to obtain up-to-date and high-quality information to enhance its marketing performance;
44. Urges the Commission and the Member States to substantially increase funds for research and innovation in the aquaculture sector (both marine and freshwater), especially new knowledge fields such as the study of the microbiome or the scientific monitoring of aquaculture environmental services; calls on the Member States to provide or increase funding for research and development in the aquaculture sector, and enhance the transfer of scientific knowledge to the sector and other stakeholders;
45. Calls on the Member States and their administrations to ensure that the potential of the agricultural product and food quality schemes is used more widely for aquaculture products; recalls the possibility for setting up regional or national quality schemes, which can help producers to enhance their visibility and thus their marketing performance and income;
46. Underlines that knowledge and innovation (including the use of digital technology) are key to achieving the other objectives set for the EU aquaculture sector and that Horizon Europe, the EU framework programme for research and innovation, offers a significant opportunity to take a step forward in this area;
47. Urges the Commission to improve and collect information on the potential of the aquaculture sector in the outermost regions through viability studies and feedback, and to provide specific support for start-ups that want to work in this sector in those regions;
48. Expresses its strongest support for innovation and advances in the breeding of new aquaculture species;
49. Takes note of the fact that an innovative aquaculture sector also demands the development of appropriate skills achieved through the promotion of specialised curriculums and knowledge on aquaculture (e.g. specialised veterinary studies for fish and training on fish health for aquaculture operators), as well as life-long training for farmers on innovative approaches for the aquaculture sector;
50. Calls on the Commission to work further on levelling the playing field for EU aquaculture vis-a-vis third country producers through the revision of international trade agreements and the possible signing of new ones in the future, in relation to imports of products that do not have the same market access, environmental and social sustainability, or fish welfare standards as those produced in the EU, including by updating rules for the better implementation of aquatic food labelling; considers that, in specific cases such as caviar labelling, the legal framework on information for consumers should be revised; calls on the Commission to analyse, by means of an impact assessment, the inclusion of sustainable aquaculture sectors in the EU Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism in order to create incentives for European industries and EU trade partners to decarbonise their industries in favour of implementing measures that will positively help to reduce greenhouse gases with the aim of reaching zero net emissions, and therefore supporting both EU and global climate policies towards greenhouse gas neutrality, and at the same time, without being discriminatory or constituting a disguised restriction on international trade;
51. Recalls the opportunities for the sector to step up trade in aquaculture products, especially in countries and regions where consumption of these products is low;
52. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to support scientific knowledge on fish welfare, promote best aquaculture practices on fish well-being and promote the creation of EU reference centres for fish welfare; stresses that good animal welfare practices are the best preventive step to reduce the need for medicines and to ensure fish health and welfare; encourages further use of technologies and innovation to address illnesses in a more targeted manner, reducing the amount of medicine needed; stresses the need to improve the availability of veterinary medicines, when needed for the aquaculture sector;53. Recommends that the Commission devise legislative proposals on the basis of the latest scientific knowledge on the needs of fish and other aquatic animals and on transport methods in order to minimise their suffering during transport; stresses that the new provisions should provide a detailed checklist for pre-transport planning and preparation, specific provisions concerning water quality parameters, density, handling during loading and unloading, and post-transport welfare controls; calls on the Commission to ensure that the guidelines it publishes are updated on the basis of the latest scientific evidence and are in line with Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 and calls for specific requirements for the commercial movement of fish; stresses, furthermore, that specific training and certification should be provided regarding fish transportation;
54. Supports increasing the capacity of Copernicus and the European Marine Observation and Data Network to observe, model and forecast to better anticipate the effects of extreme weather events both on land and at sea, to which aquaculture facilities are especially sensitive;
55. Stresses the importance of adequate training both for competent authorities and farmers on how to limit the environmental impact of aquaculture practises and ensure the respect of high animal welfare and health standards;
56. Calls on the Commission to prepare a proposal for an EU great cormorant management plan that could properly and definitively address the problem the aquaculture sector has been facing for many years, based on the best available scientific advice and experiences and practices already tested in Member States; urges that the plan be designed for the effective mitigation and control of their effect on aquaculture farms, with a view to reducing their economic, environmental and social impact on production and biodiversity; highlights that the plan should include a list of eligible measures on preventive coexistence solutions and adequate compensation for losses and measures, financed with EU or national funds; insists that financial support for tailor-made research aimed at finding and testing preventive measures is key, but also for allowing proper monitoring, including recording and analysing the effects of the measures undertaken; calls on the Member States to implement those measures on a local case-by-case basis and report to the Commission every year on the implementation of the plan, including the effectiveness of the measures chosen; calls on the Commission to evaluate the EU great cormorant management plan every five years and report to Parliament; urges the Commission to prepare, as an immediate action, a guidance document on how to apply derogations provided for in Article 9 of the Birds Directive, and to assess the need to modify the current legislation where preventive measures have proven insufficient and the financial and social impact does not allow for coexistence solutions, according to the best scientific advice;
57. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to simplify licensing procedures, and to make further efforts and provide the additional help necessary to enable users of the EMFAF to gain access to funding;
58. Welcomes the Commission communication on an action plan for the development of organic production and the 23 actions included in its annex; points out that organic aquaculture needs to play a key role in the planned growth of the aquaculture sector, given its ample untapped potential for development, in line with the transition to a sustainable food system in Europe, and which should be given assistance through the EMFAF;
59. Agrees that organic aquaculture has potential, but emphasises the differences in organic aquaculture production across the Member States;
60. Agrees with the objective of a significant increase in organic aquaculture by 2030 without setting any concrete percentage in this plan, given that this is a relatively new sector and its growth is not easy to predict; encourages Member States, however, to set targets, if appropriate, taking into account their knowledge of local- and regional specificities and market developments; points out that although EU organic aquaculture has experienced an increase in the farming of certain species and in certain countries in recent years (including salmon in Ireland and mussels in Denmark and Ireland), the demand for EU organic aquaculture is uncertain and, moreover, the economic performance of organic aquaculture is still not sufficient in some areas;
61. Considers that sustainable aquaculture, in general, and organic aquaculture, in particular, will play a key role in meeting the EU’s ambition for a carbon neutral Europe by 2050 by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to climate change mitigation, while supplying additional benefits to the environment and biodiversity;
62. Points out that sustainable aquaculture, in general, and organic aquaculture, in particular, can help meet consumer demands for diversified high-quality food produced in a way that respects the environment and ensures fish welfare, thereby filling the gap between demand and supply of fishery products in the EU, and relieving pressure on wild stocks;
63. Calls on the Commission and the Member States, within the framework of national plans for the sustainable development of aquaculture, to analyse the main barriers to the development of organic aquaculture and propose appropriate measures; calls further on the Member States to include, based on an ex-ante impact assessment, an increase in organic aquaculture among the objectives of their reviewed multi-annual national strategic plans for aquaculture; considers that the EMFAF should be used to promote sustainable aquaculture practices, including organic production, and to provide support during the conversion period, which would level the playing field with respect to other organic farmers;
64. Stresses the need for increased support for research and innovation on alternative sources of nutrients, treatments, breeding and animal welfare in aquaculture; considers it necessary to promote investments in adapted polyculture and multi-trophic aquaculture systems and to promote hatcheries and nursery activities for organic juveniles; welcomes the Open Method of Coordination for the exchange of best practices and innovation in organic aquaculture;
65. Highlights that innovation, including different types of aquaculture, has developed since the Regulation on organic production and labelling of organic products was adopted; points out in this regard that certain provisions, such as those on reproduction, are ill equipped for the new innovative and sustainable aquaculture methods developed; urges the Commission to assess this Regulation accordingly and present the necessary amendments;
66. Calls on the Commission to analyse how the rules for organic aquaculture are interpreted, implemented and monitored in each Member State; urges the Commission to publish guidelines for the Member States, certification bodies and fish farmers, aimed at reducing heterogeneity in the implementation of the organic regulation, based on the conclusions of that analysis;
67. Urges the Commission to consider re-authorising the use of 30 % of the daily ration of fishmeal and fish oil from non-organic aquaculture trimmings, or trimmings of fish caught for human consumption that come from sustainable EU fishery products, for a transitional period of five years for all newcomers in the organic aquaculture sector, given its positive impact on the circular economy and as a necessary support measure in view of the low availability and high prices of organic feed; calls on the Commission to consider also the use of species (which may not naturally spawn in Europe) for which induced reproduction is performed using pituitary extracts, species which are used in polyculture practices in order to use other trophic niches of the culture environment, thus contributing to carbon sequestration, mitigating eutrophication, increasing overall pond productivity and reducing the nutrient load of fish farming;
68. Highlights the need to level the playing field for EU organic farmers across the Union, as well as with imported organic products, by providing the same rules, support and harmonising treatments for diseases used in organic aquaculture and organic livestock farming;
69. Recalls that Parliament’s resolution entitled ‘Towards a sustainable and competitive European aquaculture sector: current status and future challenges’ proposes 92 actions to unlock the potential of EU aquaculture through: simplifying administrative procedures; ensuring equity in interaction with other sectors; enhancing the competitiveness of EU aquaculture within and outside the Union’s borders; improving consumer information; ensuring animal welfare and the availability of veterinary products; pursuing better promotional campaigns and communication; supporting research and innovation; encouraging training and employment; increasing the sustainability of the EU’s aquaculture sector; ensuring adequate financing through the EMFF and other structural funds; and achieving a harmonious symbiosis with fisheries; urges the Commission to work closely with Member States to implement these actions;
70. Points out that the conflict between extractive fishing and aquaculture makes no sense in the current context, in which demand for marine products is rising while the pressure on wild fish populations is gradually starting to decrease in the Union, and stresses that these two activities complement one another;
71. Stresses that cooperation between aquaculture, on the one hand, and the canning and processing sector, on the other, can generate significant added value for aquaculture products if the cooperation is carried out in synergy and promotes both activities;
72. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the common fisheries policy Advisory Councils.
According to FAO State of World Aquaculture 2020, in 2018, global aquaculture production, including aquatic plants was 114.5 million tonnes, with an estimated value of USD 263 billion. The production was comprised of farmed aquatic animals, aquatic plants and non-food products. The Asia-Pacific region remains the major producer, with only four of the top 15 producing countries being outside the region (Brazil, Chile, Egypt and Norway). Globally, aquaculture now provides over 50 % of fish for human consumption. Global food supply and apparent per capita consumption of fish and fish products continue to increase faster than human population growth.
In 2018, EU aquaculture production amounted to 1.32 million tonnes, with a total value of EUR 4.80 billion. This represented a 4 % or 50.330 tonne decrease in volume and a 5 % or EUR 348 million decrease in value compared with 2017 – a reversal of the upward trend seen during the previous four years. Compared with 10 years before, production grew by 3 %, which was an increase of less than 40.000 tonnes, while value had grown by a remarkable 36 % in real terms, which meant an increase of almost EUR 1.30 billion.
The value increase in EU aquaculture during the 2009–2018 decade was due to increased production of high value species, such as salmon, seabass and bluefin tuna, combined with the strong price increase of some major species, such as salmon, seabass, gilthead seabream, oyster and clam, according to EUMOFA 2020 The EU fish market. Price increases might have been connected to an increase in demand, in addition to other factors, such as the higher quality of products, including organic, as well as a supply decrease, due to high mortality of some species, such as oysters. It should also be considered that the decade’s 3 % volume increase was a minor variation, caused by licensing issues and conflict of interest in terms of spatial planning. This slight volume increase combined with increased demand contributed to a price increase.
The European Green Deal is at the centre of the EU’s policy agenda. Its prime objective is a sustainable, climate-neutral Europe by 2050, acting as a vehicle for investment and growth. The Biodiversity and the ‘Farm to Fork’ Strategies emphasize that it is ‘key’ to manage the transition towards a more sustainable food system, in particular strengthening the efforts to tackle climate change, protect the environment and preserve biodiversity. The aquaculture farming community has an essential role to play in the achievement of these objectives.
On the 12 of May 2021, the Commission published the Communication COM(2021) 236 final on the Strategic guidelines for a more sustainable and competitive EU aquaculture for the period 2021 to 2030. This document provides a strategic and long-term approach for the sustainable growth of EU aquaculture, which is especially relevant after the COVID-19 crisis. Based on the Strategic Guidelines, EU Member States will review their Multi-annual National Strategic Plans (MNSPs) with the support of European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF).
The rapporteur believes these guidelines are comprehensive, sound and fit for purpose to promote a sustainable and competitive EU aquaculture with a long-term focus on the sustainability of the aquaculture sector and on its contribution to the European Green Deal. The transition to a sustainable food system in Europe needs to include aquaculture sector as an important part of the circular economy and net contributor to excess nutrient transformation in high-quality protein.
Despite of progress made thanks to the ‘Open Method of Coordination’ laid down by the Common Fisheries Policy Regulation as well as EU funding, the aquaculture sector is still far from reaching its full potential in terms of growth and meeting the increasing demand for more sustainable seafood. The EU imports over 70 % of the seafood that it consumes. Aquaculture products overall (including imports) represent 25 % of EU consumption of seafood, while EU aquaculture products represent only 10 % of EU consumption. EU aquaculture accounts for less than 2 % of global aquaculture production.
The potential for growth of the sector will only be developed in a predictable, streamlined and business-friendly legal framework, considering all three pillars of sustainability: economic, social and environmental, which will allow providing sustainable and quality food products, reducing our dependence on aquatic food imports and creating more jobs, especially in coastal regions, according to the rapporteur.
The new EU Aquaculture Assistance mechanism is an innovative tool to aid the Commission, Member States, the industry, and other stakeholders to develop further guidance and consolidate best practices on the different areas covered. The rapporteur considers that the key for the success of this tool is that all relevant stakeholders are involved in its creation, in particular all members of the Aquaculture Advisory Council (AAC).
The rapporteur believes that the aquaculture sector can provide a consistent contribution to ecosystem services for the society, and especially algae and shellfish farming can contribute to decarbonise the EU economy, and mitigate climate change. Freshwater aquaculture is very important in many rural regions of Europe. In that regard, food traceability, green business models, fish welfare, are also important factors to be addressed.
The MNSPs should take account of the main barriers to the development of the potential of the sector and to recognise the need to allocate space to aquaculture through appropriate spatial planning, resulting in an effective and flexible plan that considers the ever-changing marine and freshwater environment that aquaculture functions within, and considering that an overly restrictive zoning may deter investment and development. According to the rapporteur, the coordination with national, regional and local public administrations that have competences in the aquaculture development is very necessary for streamlining national legislation and providing guidance on the regulatory framework applicable to the sector.
From the rapporteur’s point of view, the importance of having sustainable feed ingredients for aquaculture in the Union is one of the key elements for its full contribution to the European Green Deal. Aquaculture needs to use ecologically sustainable marine proteins and oils, by-products and trimmings, land animal proteins and innovative solutions such as insect meal and microalgae, and partial replacement of marine proteins and oils with non-marine alternatives.
Another crucial element for the success of the aquaculture sector expansion is the organisation of EU-wide communication campaigns about the EU aquaculture sector and production with funds under direct management, in addition to other information and communication campaigns included in all Operational Programmes in line with the Strategic guidelines objectives, on specific sectors from the EU aquaculture sector, in the opinion of the rapporteur.
For many years, cormorants have had an economic and social impact on aquaculture. It is time to establish permanent measures to tackle this problem. The rapporteur believes the solution could be the inclusion of the great cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis to Annex II, Part A of the Birds Directive 2009/147/EC, a list of species that may be hunted under national legislation.
The Commission adopted the Communication COM(2021) 141 final on an Action Plan for the development of Organic Production on the 25 of March 2021 providing 23 actions for stimulating demand and ensuring consumer trust, stimulating conversion and reinforcing the entire value chain, and improving the contribution of farming to sustainability.
The rapporteur considers that the new Action Plans (2021 – 2027) the Member States will submit should take into account the challenges the organic aquaculture sector is facing. Organic aquaculture needs to play a key role in the foreseeable growth of the aquaculture sector, given its ample untapped potential for development, in line with the transition to a sustainable food system in Europe, which should be assisted through the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF).
Although EU organic aquaculture has experienced an increase in recent years for certain species and certain countries (salmon in Ireland, and mussel in Denmark and Ireland), this sector is relatively new and the demand of organic aquaculture is uncertain. EU consumers see wild fish as more natural and healthy than organic aquaculture products. Finally yet importantly, the economic performance of organic aquaculture is still not enough in some areas.
Research and innovation are an important pillar to provide knowledge based solutions to the main obstacles the sector is facing. The main areas where the rapporteur proposes to focus are alternative sources of nutrients, treatments, breeding and animal welfare in aquaculture. Besides, it is necessary to promote investments in adapted polyculture and multi-trophic aquaculture systems and the promotion of hatcheries and nurseries activities for organic juveniles. In this sense, the Open Method of Coordination for the exchange of best practices and innovation on organic aquaculture the Commission proposes could be the platform where solutions could be found.
The rapporteur believes that the publication of some Guidelines for all actors involved in organic aquaculture (Member States, certification bodies and fish farmers) could help harmonise the implementation of the organic rules in the EU. Measures and controls should be the same in all Member States in order to level the playing field.
In view of the lack of organic feed, the rapporteur proposes to re-authorise the use of 30 % of the daily ration of fishmeal and fish oil from non-organic aquaculture trimmings, or trimmings of fish caught for human consumption coming from sustainable EU fisheries products, for a transitional period of 5 years to all newcomers in the organic aquaculture sector, given its positive impact on the circular economy and as a necessary support measure.
INFORMATION ON ADOPTION IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE
Result of final vote
Members present for the final vote
Clara Aguilera, Pietro Bartolo, Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, Isabel Carvalhais, Rosanna Conte, Rosa D’Amato, Søren Gade, Anja Hazekamp, Niclas Herbst, Jan Huitema, Ladislav Ilčić, France Jamet, Pierre Karleskind, Predrag Fred Matić, Francisco José Millán Mon, João Pimenta Lopes, Manuel Pizarro, Caroline Roose, Bert-Jan Ruissen, Annie Schreijer-Pierik, Peter van Dalen, Theodoros Zagorakis
Substitutes present for the final vote
Benoît Biteau, Cláudia Monteiro de Aguiar
Substitutes under Rule 209(7) present for the final vote
Agnès Evren, Claude Gruffat
FINAL VOTE BY ROLL CALL IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE
Ladislav Ilčić, Bert‑Jan Ruissen
Rosanna Conte, France Jamet
Agnès Evren, Niclas Herbst, Francisco José Millán Mon, Cláudia Monteiro de Aguiar, Annie Schreijer‑Pierik, Theodoros Zagorakis, Peter van Dalen
Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, Søren Gade. Jan Huitema, Pierre Karleskind
Clara Aguilera, Pietro Bartolo, Isabel Carvalhais, Predrag Fred Matić, Manuel Pizarro
Benoît Biteau, Rosa D'Amato, Claude Gruffat, Caroline Roose
João Pimenta Lopes
Key to symbols:
+ : in favour
- : against
0 : abstention
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