Scottish Tory MEP, Struan Stevenson has condemned the red tape that is proving a barrier to growth within Europe’s fish farming industry, calling for the bureaucracy to be simplified.
Otherwise, he says, the sector is in danger of being dominated by competition from non-EU countries.
Speaking today (7th March) at a conference organised by the Intergroup on Climate Change, Biodiversity & Sustainable Development which Mr Stevenson chairs, in the European Parliament in Brussels, he warned: “At a time when demand for healthy fish products is rising and while marine fish stocks continue to decline, the opportunities for EU aquaculture to lead the world in fish farming innovation and technology and rigorous quality standards, are considerable. Instead, because of the over burden of red tape, we are fuelling the international aquaculture market and exporting jobs.
“Our non-EU competitors have assumed dominance, with the EU importing some 1.65 million tonnes of farmed seafood products annually. We are perfectly capable of producing more of this ourselves.”
The Asia-Pacific region continues to dominate the aquaculture sector, accounting for almost 90% of global production, with China alone contributing two thirds of global production.
As one possible competitive initiative, Mr Stevenson is calling for the inclusion of an ‘eco-label’ to certify environmentally friendly and sustainable aquaculture practices, believing this will help improve the image of the sector and enable EU fish farmers to compete on a level playing field with imports from outside the EU.
Struan, who is senior Vice Chairman of the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee, continued: “EU farmed fish products are of the highest quality and are produced under the most stringent welfare and hygiene conditions, in an environmentally sustainable way.
“The introduction of an ‘eco-label’ which would verify that environmentally friendly and sustainable aquaculture practices are adhered to and would bolster the image of the sector and ensure a competitive market place with international competitors.”