We all know that fish is packed with protein, it’s good for the heart and a rich source of vitamins and nutrients. At the same time, it is no secret that we are overfishing our seas, and are putting our fish stocks in danger.
Fish farming, or aquaculture, can help to relieve this burden on wild fishes when it comes to satisfying our ever growing demand for fish – both in the EU and worldwide. One of the world's fastest growing food sectors, fish farming accounts for about half of the fish eaten worldwide every year with that figure on the rise. Simply put, without aquaculture there would not be enough fish to feed the world population. This would mean having to take more fish from our seas and jeopardising the long term sustainability of our wild fish stocks.
On top of providing us with good quality protein for our diet, aquaculture products are local – and can help to develop our local economies. In the EU we currently import 68% of the seafood we eat and only 10% of our consumption is farmed here. More than 80,000 people are already directly employed in European aquaculture, and this figure is expected to grow as more and more of our seafood is provided by EU fish farmers. Through its newly reformed fisheries policy and targeted financial support, the European Union will support the sector's growth, create more job opportunities, and make sure that all farmed fish produced in Europe continues to be high quality, healthy, and sustainable seafood.
Aquaculture means farming of marine food and includes the cultivation of freshwater and marine animals, as well as, more recently, different types of algae. Practised across Europe, it produces many species of fish, shellfish, crustaceans and algae. A range of different farming methods are being used fort that - including traditional ones such as ropes, nets, and tanks, or more sophisticated ones like water recirculation systems. Around half of the EU's production stems from shellfish, with mussels and oysters being the most popular, whilst marine fish such as salmon, seabream and seabass, make up about another quarter of production. Freshwater fish such as trout and carp make up about another fifth.
Just like in agriculture, the first priorities remain producing healthy food for consumers as well as protecting the welfare of the animals and respecting the environment. Fish farmers depend on clean water and sanitary living conditions. In many cases, the fish or shellfish can find the nutrients that they need in the environment but where necessary, the farmers provide additional feed to ensure a balanced and healthy diet. All of this is done in adherence to the strict European environmental and consumer protection standards so that fish farmed in the EU is sustainable, fresh, safe, locally farmed and easily traceable.