Aquaculture, unlike fisheries, is not an exclusive EU competence. That does not mean the EU is not involved. EU rules, such as those ensuring environmental protection or human and animal health, apply to aquaculture activities. In addition, the Commission adopted in 2013 non-binding strategic guidelines for the sustainable development of EU aquaculture, which served as the basis for the development by EU countries of specific national strategic plans for aquaculture. The Commission works with EU countries through the “open method of coordination” to promote the exchange of good practices among EU countries, including through technical seminars. The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund has provided specific funding to support the sustainable development of aquaculture in the EU.
The Commission has adopted new strategic guidelines in 2021 and EU countries have reviewed their national strategies in light of the new guidelines. The European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (2021-2027) will continue to make available funding for EU aquaculture.
The European Commission wants to help develop the EU aquaculture sector that ensures the supply of nutritious, healthy and tasty food with a low environmental and climate footprint, creates economic opportunities and jobs, and becomes a global reference for sustainability and quality. Its policy aims specifically to
- building resilience and competitiveness
- ensuring the participation of the sector in the green transition
- ensuring social acceptance and consumer information on EU aquaculture activities and products
- increasing knowledge and innovation in the EU aquaculture sector
Through the strategic guidelines for a more sustainable and competitive EU aquaculture for the period 2021-2030, the Commission provides a common vision for EU countries, the aquaculture sector and other stakeholders to develop the sector in a way that contributes directly to the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy. EU countries have reviewed their national strategic plans to promote aquaculture to take into consideration that vision.
The European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) will continue to make available specific financial support available to ensure the best possible conditions for the EU aquaculture sector to develop sustainably. Each EU country decides how it wants to spend that money, provided that this is consistent with its national strategic plan for the sector.
The EU has also supported research and innovation on key elements for the sustainable development of European aquaculture. From interactions with the environment, health and nutrition of farmed fish, to reproduction and breeding. Research and innovation on sustainable aquaculture is an important priority under Horizon Europe, the EU framework programme for research and innovation.
Aquaculture is a complex activity that involves many elements, from the use of space and water, taking care of the health and welfare of animals farmed, or ensuring the safety of products used in the farming process (such as feed or veterinary treatments) for the environment and human health.
There is a large body of EU legislation covering these issues, which aquaculture producers have to comply with. For example, to protect aquatic habitats from impacts of non-native or locally absent species, specific rules exist on their use in aquaculture.
In addition, EU legislation and policies for organic production also apply to aquaculture. These rules promote, through certification and labelling, aquaculture that complies with stricter production requirements on environmental impact and animal welfare, as well as limited and regulated use of inputs.
The main responsibility of the application of this legislation and the management of aquaculture activities lies with public authorities in the different EU countries.
To allow EU countries to support their producers while respecting EU competition rules and other policies, specific state aid rules apply to the fishing and aquaculture sectors.
Collaboration with EU countries and stakeholders
Through the open method of coordination, the European Commission helps to identify problems and facilitates cooperation and policy coordination between EU countries.
The Commission regularly facilitates the organisation of technical seminars. During these seminars, experts have the opportunity to exchange experiences and good practices on national measures to support the sector. These practices range from licensing systems and allocation of space to the marketing of aquaculture products.
The Aquaculture Advisory Council consists of sector representatives and stakeholders. It provides EU countries and EU institutions with recommendations on sustainable aquaculture.