Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,

We're here in EXPO Milano to discuss the future of European aquaculture, and this is a very fitting setting.

We are also here to try and answer a very important question.

The question asked at this EXPO is “Is it possible to ensure sufficient, good, healthy and sustainable food for all mankind?”

Aquaculture is definitely part of the answer. Seafood is a very healthy, very valuable source of nutrients: proteins, minerals and essential oils, like Omega 3s, that are good for the brain and that our body cannot produce by itself.

3 billion people get 20 percent of their animal protein from fishery products. And consumption is growing. Global consumption has almost doubled in the last fifty years – from 10kg per person in the 1960s to 20kg in 2012.

World population continues to grow and is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050.

These two combined factors are putting an unbearable strain on the stocks of wild fish.

In the EU we are reducing overfishing and helping the most vulnerable stocks to recover. The haddock fishery in the North East Atlantic is already giving increased returns from fishing the stock at a sustainable level. We are also working with global partners to ensure sustainable fishing worldwide.

But fisheries alone will not be able to meet the demand of future generations; already now, half of the seafood produced in the world comes from aquaculture. The World Bank expects this to reach 60% by 2030. In 2012, world farmed fish production topped beef production for the first time in modern history.

Let us focus on the EU for a moment. It is a fact that the EU is a big consumer but a poor producer of farmed fish.

In the EU, 65% of the fish and seafood consumed is imported. So why are we not farming more of our own seafood? Why does the EU only account for less than 5% of global aquaculture production?

Elsewhere, Aquaculture has impressive growth rates. An average of more than 6% per year across the world. Why has it been stagnating here in the Union?

[Boosting EU aquaculture through better regulation]

I have looked into the main issues that are mostly preventing the industry from really taking off.

One of the main stumbling blocks for a new farmer entering the market is a load of unnecessary bureaucracy. Often he has to go through a maze of red tape. Not to mention how hard it is to find the physical space for a fish farm.

We have asked each Member State to define a strategy and find ways to help aquaculture grow.

And, I have to say that Governments have risen to the challenge.

For instance some have come up with ways to streamline the licensing process. In some cases,  even with online application procedures.

Others are realising the positive effects of linking aquaculture investments with environmental, agriculture and tourism projects.

For my part I intend to help with practical guidance on how EU legislation is interpreted, without lowering environmental standards. Starting this autumn, I will also bring national administrations together to exchange best practices on what really works on the ground.

[Boosting EU aquaculture through informing the public]

But that is only one side of the coin. We also need an informed public. A knowledgeable consumer who can make better choices.

EU aquaculture has excellent environmental and consumer protection standards.

But is the outstanding quality of our home grown produce really known to the public? Do they know how healthy and fresh and local it is?

Sadly, I don’t think so. And this has to change.

The EU's new labelling rules now allow us to read how and where the fishery product was produced. This will help us find and choose fresh, high quality EU aquaculture products.

But we need to do more not only to reach out to consumers but also to teachers, pupils and chefs.

So, I want to give  a warm welcome to the pupils and teachers who are here with us today, for the final act of our “Farmed in the EU” campaign.

You represent the three schools, which submitted the best projects in our competition. You learned a lot about aquaculture with the help of real farmers, many of whom are also present here today. Thank you all and congratulations for your work.

As for us grown-ups, I have the pleasure to welcome here with us today one of my favourite personalities, Mr Gualtiero Marchesi.

Gualtiero is not only a world-renowned chef, but also the director of a leading educational institution: ALMA, the international school for Italian cuisine.

And as I’m sure he’ll agree, in today’s world it is important for our young chefs to be aware of both taste and production methods. It is important to favour products that are good not just for us but also for our environment and our economy.

[Conclusion]

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen,

The seafood farmed in the EU is fresh, it’s tasty, it’s healthy. It meets the most stringent environmental and consumer protection standards.

In one word and most importantly, it is sustainable.

Whether you are a farmer, a consumer, a teacher, a student, a chef or a journalist, I ask you to share this knowledge around you.

An informed choice is always a better choice.

We have to ensure that it is possible to produce sufficient, good, healthy and sustainable food for all mankind – let us make certain that Europe also contributes to help address this challenge.