ANALYSIS - Last week the European Commission (EC) announced plans for a set of strategic guidelines which will boost sustainability and the economic performance of aquaculture in Europe. With the sector currently stagnating, how will the guidelines be implemented and how will it help the sector bloom? writes Lucy Towers, TheFishSite Editor.
Fish consumption is growing rapidly and it is widely known that aquaculture must help to provide some of this demand, taking the pressure of wild fish stocks.
With 25 per cent of EU fish consumption coming from EU fisheries, 65 per cent from imports and only 10 per cent from EU aquaculture, the aquaculture sector is currently hugely undeveloped. The new aquaculture guidelines are therefore designed to fill the gap between production and demand.
Developing aquaculture in Europe should also help to create thousands of jobs whilst also making the sector more competitive.
Eliminating Red Tape
At present, the aquaculture sector faces many challenges which are preventing it from growing competitively. The EC has reported that obtaining production licenses for farms is a long process with some having to wait up to three years and high administrative costs can be off putting.
There are also problems with spatial planning where areas have restricted use or there are conflicting and competing uses. Earlier this year, the EC tabled a proposal for a Directive on integrated spatial planning and coastal zones management which should analyse the positive and negative impacts of all activities. Through this, the EC affirmed that cutting red tape will not impact of environmental protection.
The European aquaculture sector also needs to expand the range of species produced so that it can become more competitive, finding niche markets to exploit, giving it individual identity. High quality and premium products will also be promoted.
The EC noted that its proposals on labelling are currently being discussed between Council and Parliament in the framework of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform. These labels should help differentiate aquaculture products from the EU.
The new guidelines will not create any legal obligations for the Member States. Instead they will be implemented through the new CFP and based on strategic guidelines, multi annual national plans prepared by the Member States and exchange of best practices. The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund is expected to fund the development.
The proposed Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management (IP/13/222) asks Member States to draw up maritime spatial plans and develop integrated coastal management strategies.
With the Open Method of Coordination, the Commission is offering Member States an opportunity to exchange best practices on how to include aquaculture activities in these plans in a way that responds to the sector's needs and minimises its impacts on the environment and other human activities.
In the end, the decision on the content of the maritime spatial planning and the integrated coastal management rests with the Member States, who can tailor them to their specific economic, social and environmental priorities, as well as their national sectoral policy objectives and legal traditions.
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