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Oceans and fisheries

Overview of EU aquaculture (fish farming)

Farming finfish, shellfish and aquatic plants in the sea or inland waters is one of the world’s fastest growing food sectors. It already provides the planet with more than half of all the seafood and fish we eat.

Aquaculture production

EU aquaculture accounts for about 20% of fish and shellfish supply in the EU and directly employs about 70,000 persons. The sector consists of around 15,000 enterprises, mainly small businesses or micro-enterprises in coastal and rural areas.

Overall EU production has been more or less stable since 2000, whereas global production has been growing between 5% and 7% per year. The main aquaculture-producing EU countries in terms of volume are Spain, France, Italy and Greece.

Aquaculture production is very diverse in terms of both species farmed and methods of production (sea cages, ponds, raceways, on-land recirculating aquaculture systems). Around 100 different species are currently farmed in aquaculture operations around the world. In the EU

  • more than 45% of aquaculture production is shellfish
  • more than 30% of aquaculture production is marine fish
  • more than 20% of aquaculture production is freshwater fish

Despite of the diversity of aquaculture, the EU aquaculture production is largely concentrated on a few species, the most important being mussels, salmon, seabream, rainbow trout, seabass, oysters, and carp.

Algae production is still limited in the EU but is increasing.

Sustainable aquaculture

The sustainable development of aquaculture is one of the main objectives of the common fisheries policy. Aquaculture production is also recognised by the European Green Deal as a source of “low carbon” protein for food and feed.

Aquaculture production is subject to licencing and monitoring procedures in EU countries and must comply with strict requirements under EU legislation and national legislation to ensure it respects human and animal health and the environment. The most important aspects in terms of environmental sustainability of EU aquaculture relate to: the assessment, monitoring and limitation of the environmental impact of aquaculture activities (e.g. in terms of nutrients and organic matter discharge from aquaculture farms in waters), the use of alien or locally absent species, feed ingredients for carnivorous fish (alternatives to wild fish), management of diseases and use of veterinary medicines and other substances with low environmental impact. Another increasingly important aspect is animal welfare in fish farming.

Publications

Aquaculture in the EU
English
(1.12 MB - PDF)
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Media

Euronews Ocean: Reducing plastic in fishing and aquaculture: what alternatives to protect our oceans? April 2021.

Euronews Ocean: Reducing plastic in fishing and aquaculture: what alternatives to protect our oceans?

In this episode of Ocean, we are zooming in on EU-supported projects that help solve the problem of plastic marine pollution caused by derelict fishing and aquaculture gear. 

Euronews Ocean: European producers are making pollution-free aquaculture a successful business. December 2020.

Euronews Ocean: European producers are making pollution-free aquaculture a successful business

Among all European countries, Ireland is the leader in clean aquaculture, producing around 30 thousand tons of organically certified fish and shellfish every year, meanwhile, Hungary produces as much organic seafood as France or Denmark. 

Euronews Ocean: Wild vs farmed fish: what should you choose? March 2019.

Euronews Ocean: Wild vs farmed fish: what should you choose? 

In this episode of Ocean, Euronews' Denis Loctier explores how farmed fish could offer a more sustainable future. …