There are many good reasons why we need to boost the sustainable development of EU aquaculture.
The increasing demand for seafood, fuelled by a growing world population with rising standards of living, cannot be met by capture fisheries alone, even if well managed and thriving. A strong and sustainable aquaculture sector is essential to allow us to meet growing demand and to help take pressure off wild fish stocks.
The role of aquaculture in the development of our coastal and inland areas is just as crucial: creating sustainable employment in these local communities is a priority. Last month in Limassol, EU Ministers adopted a European agenda for growth and jobs in the marine and maritime sectors. Aquaculture is one of the pillars of Blue Growth, and our job is to create the conditions to crystallise the potential for sustainable growth that we know is there.
The EU aquaculture sector can already count on ideal environmental conditions, advanced technologies and skilled workers; its products offer the highest animal health, sustainability and consumer protection standards. Despite this, EU aquaculture production has been stagnating in the last decade, while world production saw a dramatic growth. One quarter of all the fish products consumed in the EU comes from aquaculture and over a third of our total seafood imports are farmed products.
The FAO estimates that today half of the fish the world consumes comes from aquaculture, and that by 2030 this figure will be 65%, making aquaculture one of the fastest growing segments of the food industry. We need to act now to make EU aquaculture more competitive and innovative and to create new jobs in this sector. These objectives have shaped the European Commission's proposal for the Common Fisheries Policy reform.
Creating a favourable environment for aquaculture will require coordinated action at the EU, national and regional level. This is going to be at the heart of the Open Method of Coordination: an approach based on non-binding strategic guidelines and multiannual national plans. Commissioner Damanaki will present a first set of ideas later this month in La Coruna, for discussion with stakeholders. We plan to come forward with strategic guidelines early next year, which will inspire the content of the multiannual national plans to promote aquaculture.
One of our key objectives with the reform is to foster sustainable economic activity and to create favourable conditions for investment in aquaculture.
We need to create the right conditions for cutting red tape, speeding up licensing, facilitating access to financing and ensuring a level playing field in access to water and space. We need to make sure that everyone does their homework here: we need to have a good look at EU law, national law and regional law and administrative rules.
To be more competitive, aquaculture must be a professional sector, able to quickly adapt to market trends and respond to consumer expectations. This can be a challenge for a sector that is so varied and fragmented. Our idea is to support Producers Organisations and Interbranch Organisations to promote tailored production and marketing plans, better inform consumers and differentiate aquaculture products.
Another important tool that we have is communicating to consumers. The high standards offered by the EU producers are not easily visible and they do not so far bring the competitive advantage that they should. To change this, information on labels will have to become more precise, to the benefit of both consumers and producers. Traceability, labelling and certification schemes are some of the available tools that we need to support. Consumers must be in a position to vote with their wallets for farmed seafood that is fresh, healthy, safe and locally produced.
You see that we have considerable ambition. Have we thought about the means to deliver on our ambitions?
On governance, the new Advisory Council for Aquaculture is intended to bring together small and big producers, retailers, consumers, and representatives of civil society. And we will work closely with national decision makers that control many of the levers that we need to pull.
And then we have money. The proposal for a European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) builds on the experience of the current European Fisheries Fund, which already allocated more than 1.2 billion € to the promotion of aquaculture. We have been clear from the outset that we want to shift away from spending on subsidies that perpetuate unsustainable practices. The new EMFF must have sufficient resources to promote innovative forms of aquaculture, such as multi-use (an example is the co-location of aquaculture cages with wind plants offshore), off-shore and non-food aquaculture, as well as more traditional activities such as freshwater aquaculture, salmon farming in the Atlantic or seabream and seabass farming in the Mediterranean, and the very important shellfish.
We also need to do more to support aquaculture through the Union Policy for Research and Innovation. The current 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development and the Commission proposal for "Horizon 2020", the EU research programme for 2014-2020, include topics of interest for aquaculture. The contribution of EU research in key aquaculture areas has been crucial, and its role will grow in the future. Examples include projects that improved control of infectious diseases in molluscs, or developed better cages for maritime fish farming.
In essence this is about creating a more favourable environment for European aquaculture. The key players are those entrepreneurs and businesses that we need to help to grow. We should be putting them in a position to respond quickly to current and future challenges.
I am confident that working together we can reach the objective of a thriving, sustainable and competitive aquaculture in the EU.