EUROPEAN Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella has expressed his determination to support and develop aquaculture within the EU.
In a prepared, but unannounced, statement he said that fish farming within Europe was starting to emerge from stagnation and it was now time to help it expand.
‘Forty years ago, the famous French commandant Jacques-Yves Cousteau stated: ‘We must plant the sea and herd its animals, using the sea as farmers instead of hunters’,’ said Vella (pictured).
‘His vision is now becoming reality. In 2014, for the first time in history, humans consumed more farmed than wild caught fish.
‘And this is just the beginning; the world population is forecast to reach 10 billion people by 2050 and demand for protein is expected to grow by 70 per cent.
‘This will create an increasing appetite for ocean derived food. Seafood is not only very healthy but, in some parts of the world, essential to fighting hunger and malnutrition.’
Fisheries alone, he stressed, would not meet this demand. In 2013, according to FAO, 58 per cent of wild stocks were fully fished and more than 30 per cent were not fished sustainably.
‘While we must continue to promote sustainable fisheries, if we are to get more seafood, it has to come from farming.
‘After more than a decade of stagnation, it is, therefore, encouraging that EU aquaculture is finally starting to grow again.
‘Together with national authorities, the EU is simplifying licensing procedures, putting Maritime Spatial Plans in place and encouraging investment in the sector.
‘These actions are delivering: four per cent growth in volume and eight per cent in value between 2014 and 2015. In fact, by 2015, the sector was generating more value than ever before.
‘In parallel, thanks to EU funded research, the sector is spinning out innovative businesses. Traditional aquaculture is now complemented with techniques such as aquaponics (cultivating plants and fish together) and integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (cultivating several species together), but also venturing into new markets, such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and food additives.’
Vella continued: ‘Despite these positive developments, we can do even more to enable our aquaculture sector to take full part in shouldering the larger challenges surrounding us.
‘I’d like to think that the EU aquaculture will continue the growing trend, not only due to improved regulatory environments or the support from EU funds, but also thanks to our joint efforts to improve the understanding of farmed seafood among consumers.’