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As part of its programme for sustainable development, the European Union believes that European aquaculture can supply a variety of nutritious and healthy food products, as well as economic benefits for society, with a minimal adverse environmental impact. However, the industry faces complex challenges, including a somewhat negative image in some European countries, as well as safety and quality questions regarding imports from third countries. With 20 partners from nine countries, the Coordination Action CONSENSUS aims to create a European platform that will help achieve EU plans for an environmentally sound aquaculture industry that can create long-term secure employment, particularly in fishing-dependent areas. It will also help promote aquaculture to consumers.


High in polyunsaturated fatty acids, trace elements and vitamins, seafood has grown in popularity as an alternative to meat and fast-food diets. Subsequently, demand has substantially outpaced the ability of the wild fisheries to supply it. Although annual European aquaculture production nearly doubled between 1991 and 2000, imports grew apace. Currently, most European aquaculture concerns freshwater fish (mainly trout) and marine molluscs (mussels, oysters and clams), and is often carried out by SMEs situated in rural areas and employing fewer than ten people. Marine fish farming - salmon, sea bass and bream - and other species under development, such as cod, could help the industry to balance the demand. However, aquaculture suffers from consumer perceptions that farmed fish is not as safe or as high quality as fish caught 'in the wild'. Recent media reports of shellfish poisoning from phycotoxins and dioxin contamination in farmed salmon have affected aquaculture's market standing.

CONSENSUS will collect existing knowledge about aquaculture, assembling stakeholders from throughout Europe, including producer associations, nongovernmental organisations, consumers and scientists. Experts will analyse each industry segment, evaluating impact, sustainability, and consumer perceptions. The three-year project will identify needs for research, biotechnologies, and other innovative technologies, considering legislation affecting aquaculture, and economic constraints. It will examine aquaculture's environmental effects - for example, its use of coastal resources, the impact of drugs and chemicals used in aquaculture, and biodiversity and animal welfare.


The Coordination Action will produce sustainability protocols, followed by periods of industry and public consultation, stimulating communication among the scientific community, producers and society. The final protocols will set out practices and sustainability objectives for production systems, with low environmental impact and high competitiveness and ethical responsibility. A key goal is to transfer to SMEs better knowledge and technologies for developing and implementing effective aquaculture production systems.

CONSENSUS will produce an internet portal, bringing together new and existing information, as well as an interactive tour showing how sustainability protocols can be implemented throughout the production process and supply chain. It will produce new codes of conduct for fin-fish and mollusc production, and recommendations for creating a basis for sustainability certification for aquaculture products. The project will also work to improve consumer communication by providing balanced information on the risks and benefits of eating farmed fish and shellfish.

List of Partners

  • European Aquaculture Society (Belgium)
  • Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (NRA) (France)
  • Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (Belgium)
  • European Mollusc Producers Association (France)
  • The European Feed Manufacturers' Federation (Belgium)
  • European Consumers Organisation(Belgium)
  • Test Achats/Test Aankoop (Belgium)
  • European Bureau for Conservation Development (Belgium)
  • Danish Institute for Fisheries Research (Denmark)
  • Ghent University (Belgium)
  • The National Committee for Research Ethics in Science and Technology (Norway)
  • BVD Consultants (Belgium)
  • Research Institute for Fisheries, Aquaculture and Irrigation (Hungary)
  • Wageningen University and Research (The Netherlands)
  • Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers (UK)
  • Technical University of Catalonia (Spain)
  • Norwegian Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture Research (Norway)
  • Stirling University Institute of Aquaculture (UK)
  • University of Glasgow (UK)
  • Aquaculture Technology and Training Network (Ireland)
  • Marine Institute (Ireland)
Full title:
Multi-stakeholder platform for sustainable aquaculture in Europe
Contract n:
Project co-ordinator:
Alistair Lane, European Aquaculture Society,
EC Scientific Officer:
Ciaran Mangan,
EU contribution:
€ 1.5M
Coordination Action

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top