EU aquaculture: State of play

Briefing 14-06-2024

Aquaculture is an important sector of the EU's blue economy and has the potential to play a more vital role as a sustainable food supplier under the European Green Deal. However, while fish farming is one of the fastest growing food production sectors in the world, the EU, with its 1.1 million tonnes of farmed fish produced in 2022, accounts for less than 1 % of global production. For comparison, Norway's aquaculture output in the same year alone exceeded that of the EU as a whole. The EU's self-sufficiency rate for fishery and aquaculture products is rather low, making the EU dependent on imports of these products. Within the EU, aquaculture production is concentrated mainly in four countries, which for their part are specialised on the farming of particular species. Despite the European Commission's efforts to promote the development of aquaculture within the EU, the production rate is stagnating. The constraints and barriers hampering the sector's growth range from high administrative burdens, to limited access to space and water, to trade-related aspects and governance issues. Over the past 20 years, the European Parliament has recurrently highlighted the EU's strong dependency on imports of fisheries and aquaculture products, and called for remedies to strengthen the position of EU fish farmers. Possible future developments could include a change in policy, with a view to improving the sector's position as a major food supplier, and a change in production towards less cost-intensive and more sustainable methods.