Building a sustainable future for aquaculture

Response of the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers to the European Commission’s Communication on providing a new impetus for the Strategy for the Sustainable Development of European Aquaculture
April 15, 2009

Building a sustainable future for aquaculture 

The Federation of European Aquaculture Producers said it welcomes the initiative of the European Commission to provide a new impetus to its original strategy for the sustainable development of European aquaculture.

Following extensive stakeholder and Member State consultation on the current status and prospects for European aquaculture, the conundrum faced within European aquaculture is the stagnation of EU production while consumer demand for aquatic products is growing. The fact that the growing imbalance between European fish production (from both fisheries and aquaculture) and market demand is met by imported products has raised many questions on the future directions and policies for the aquaculture sector.

European environmental legislation is based on the precautionary principle and European fish farmers respect and abide by this. The FEAP agrees that the European aquaculture industry should be at the forefront of sustainable development, providing healthy and safe food of the highest quality to the consumer.

Its efforts to achieve this should be recognised through the establishment of appropriate certification systems that reflect these aspects and that support the concept of a level playing field in respect of competitive food products.  It is clearly unacceptable that the application, and respect by the sector, of European policies and legislation render it less competitive with imports that are not subject to the same conditions.

Future aquaculture growth within the European Union has to resolve issues such as competition for space, licensing and stringent legislation and support of this Communication requires that proactive actions are taken by the Member States, at National, Regional and local community levels. As an example, the simplification of licensing procedures would certainly facilitate the development of new fish farming businesses that provide valuable economic contributions and employment in rural and coastal areas.
Promoting and increasing the sector’s competitiveness is an essential concept within the new Communication and a recognised and strengthened position of European aquaculture within the future reforms of the Common Fisheries Policy and the Market Organisation Regulation  are requisite to achieve this.

Accompanying measures to implement such policy and legislative issues are strongly welcomed by the FEAP, particularly the focus on adapting existing structural instruments – such as the producer organisation – to the realities of modern European aquaculture.
Many of the different technical issues identified within the Communication require a combination of innovative research and legislative reflection so as to obtain sustainable solutions, including each of the social, environmental and economic components. The FEAP agrees with the concept of a ‘sufficient EU budget to aquaculture projects’ with a defined and agreed programme of action.  The work of the European Aquaculture Technology and Innovation Platform (EATIP) will provide strong support to achieving this.
Nonetheless, as recognised, traditional forms of aquaculture – particularly in inland Europe - also play an important role within European society, requiring recognition of its role and function and support for its continuity.

The FEAP also welcomes the recognition that the approach to fish welfare needs to be distinguished from that of terrestrial animals and supports the urgent requirement to address access to adequate health treatments in line with the health and welfare considerations outlined.

The fish farming sector needs high-performance feeds that complement the dietary needs – and the welfare - of the individual species. Fish meal and oils, obtained from industrial fisheries, have been a traditional component of feeds and are also integral to providing many of the dietary benefits of consuming fish, such as the Ω-3 fatty acids, vital minerals and trace elements. While the development of alternative ingredients is to be strongly supported, neither the welfare of the fish nor the recognised benefits to consumer health should be compromised.
In view of this, the FEAP strongly supports the concept of the Commission’s commitment to assessing the health benefits of aquatic food.

The FEAP underlines the commitment of its members to its underlying principle of action in aquaculture - to provide nutritious products of the highest quality, guaranteeing full transparency of operation.

An important aspect that emerges from both the Vision and Conclusion of the proposal is the need to improve awareness of the importance of European aquaculture, in terms of its achievements, contributions and growth potential.  This will require significant and important communication efforts by all involved, the Commission, the National Authorities and stakeholders alike. 
The FEAP underlines its full support for this important review of the original Strategy and appreciates the policies and actions proposed.