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Commission's top scientific advisers publish opinion on Food from the Oceans

Brussels, 30 November 2017

The High Level Group of the Commission's Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) has published a new independent scientific opinion on Food from the Oceans. At the request of Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, on behalf of the European Commission, the scientific advisers addressed the question "How can more food and biomass be obtained from the oceans in a way that does not deprive future generations of their benefits?"

Their opinion, drawing on the best available scientific and technical evidence from across Europe, identifies the potential for a large increase in food obtained from the oceans (up to three or four fold), in particular from mariculture (the cultivation of marine organisms, such as algae and shellfish, in the ocean). The scientific advisers make a number of policy recommendations on how to realise this potential in a sustainable way, including.

  • Mainstreaming a responsible culture and capture approach to food from the ocean into EU and global policy agendas, including through integrating EU fisheries and mariculture policies into an overall food production framework
  • Enabling the full potential of mariculture, including through greater attention in policies such as the implementation of the 2014 EU Directive on Marine Spatial Planning and in sustainable fisheries partnership agreements between the EU and southern partner countries
  • Sustaining wild-capture by improving the implementation and enforcement of existing regulations and supporting best practice (for example that fishing by-catch is properly recorded, landed and used)
  • Enabling these approaches by increased policy cooperation between Member States and initiatives such as the Blue Bio-economy Forum
  • Future-proofing these approaches and extending knowledge by further developing the Common Fisheries Policy’s science advice system, and facilitating pilot fishing of as-yet unexploited species

Speaking today, Karmenu Vella said: “The growing global population can’t be fed by agriculture alone. Luckily, there is vast potential in the ocean. This report will help in two ways. It points to how we can get more food from the ocean. And it indicates how to do that sustainably."

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: "This substantive opinion and comprehensive evidence review shows that the Commission's Scientific Advice Mechanism is going from strength to strength. I am confident that the value of this opinion will be recognised not just by European policy makers, but also by national governments and all those who care about the future of our oceans."

This Scientific Opinion will inform maritime, fisheries and aquaculture policy development and implementation in the coming years to help increase the quantity of sustainable food coming from the ocean. It will also be considered in the wider context of sustainable food and biomass production from the planet's land and water resources.

Background

The Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) was established in October 2015 to contribute to the quality of EU legislation and complements the existing science advisory structures of the Commission. Its High Level Group of Scientific Advisors comprises up to seven independent eminent scientists, appointed in their personal capacity.

Following a request from Commissioner Vella, the SAM HLG began its work on the scientific opinion on Food from the Oceans in early 2017. The recommendations are informed by an accompanying Evidence Review Report produced by the SAPEA (Scientific Advice for Policy by European Academies) consortium.

This is the third Scientific Opinion the High Level Group has delivered, in addition to two explanatory notes. The Group is currently also working on Opinions on “Authorisation processes for plant protection products” and "Carbon Capture and Utilisation", which are expected to be published in 2018.