Energy transition in the EU fisheries and aquaculture sector

Briefing 01-06-2023

Energy is a major cost item in EU fisheries and aquaculture. The recent energy crisis has hit the seafood sector hard, notably because of increased marine diesel prices, exposing one of the sector's major vulnerabilities: its high dependency on fossil fuels. A move towards alternative energy sources would not only address this vulnerability but also contribute to the objectives of the European Green Deal and the EU's ambition to become climate neutral. On 21 February 2023, the European Commission published a 'fisheries and oceans' package, which includes an action plan on decarbonising EU fisheries and aquaculture. The plan outlines two directions of change: it aims to increase energy efficiency in the short to medium term, while making a gradual switch from fossil fuels to renewable and low-carbon energy sources. An indicative target has been set for fisheries, namely to reduce fossil fuel intensity (in litres per kilogram of landed product) by at least 15 % in the years from 2019 to 2030. The final goal is to achieve a CO2-neutral footprint by 2050. To accelerate this energy transition, the action plan includes initiatives to stimulate research and innovation, develop the required labour skills, and improve the business environment, including funding opportunities. The Commission will launch an 'energy transition partnership for EU fisheries and aquaculture' on 16 June 2023 to steer the process, involving all stakeholders. The Commission presented the action plan to the European Parliament's Committee on Fisheries (PECH) on 1 March 2023, and the EU Commissioner responsible provided additional clarifications at the PECH meeting of 26 April 2023. A recurring point of discussion is the capacity definition in the common fisheries policy, in particular fleet capacity ceilings. New technologies typically require more weight than conventional diesel engines, which would increase a vessel's capacity and could lead to a ceiling being exceeded. As a solution, the Commission refers to the possibility of redistributing available (inactive) capacity in the Member States' fleets. This issue would be discussed with Member States and stakeholders in the context of the energy transition partnership.