Reform European aquaculture or it will die, warns Damanaki
14 May, 2012 -
EU Fisheries minister Maria Damanaki has said that it was vital to identify and the main hurdles and bottlenecks that prevented Europe's aquaculture industry from flourishing.
She warned at the weekend:" If we do not manage this, we risk a phenomenon like 'carbon leakage'. Our industry will die and we will increasingly import aquatic food coming from elsewhere, without guarantee that the same standards will have been respected. "
Ms Damanaki, who was speaking in Salzburg on Friday at the international conference on the future of aquaculture organised jointly by the European Commission and the Austrian Ministry of Agriculture and laid it on the line about the future of Europe's fish farming industry.
She said: "Aquaculture is a key element of our fisheries reform package. Never has it been advanced more prominently than under current CFP proposals. At the same time, aquaculture is one of the numerous sectors where the EU has to "roll up its sleeves". Our Europe 2020 agenda pushes, across all sectors of the economy, for innovative, sustainable and inclusive growth.
"The natural productivity of the earth and its oceans has its limits. With a growing world populations and globally raising standards of living, capture fisheries, even if well managed and thriving, would not be able to meet a demand for seafood that is constantly rising. As you know, the EU itself depends more and more on imports. So here we can create an alternative to overfishing. Sustainable aquaculture can feed our population, providing development employment and jobs.
"We can be proud of European aquaculture: it respects the highest standards of environmental sustainability to offer real quality products, without neglecting the need for animal health and consumer protection. Europe is at the forefront from a technological viewpoint, its industry is stagnating. We have to find out why."
She added: "First, we should identify the main hurdles and bottlenecks that prevent European aquaculture from flourishing. If we do not manage this, we risk a phenomenon like "carbon leakage". Our industry will die and we will increasingly import aquatic food coming from elsewhere, without guarantee that the same standards will have been respected. "
To identify these obstacles, the Commission intended to start a consultation process in the coming weeks a first version of this document has been sent around to participants in advance. "Your input on this is welcome before it starts being circulated more widely. Obviously profitability expectations determine the investments. As public authorities we should leverage private investments, not replace them.
"Here cutting red tape will be crucial to encourage investments and let the sector develop. We need to reduce the time it takes to set up a business or to obtain a license – and this requires coordinated action by all levels of authorities, EU, national and regional: let's work together! I understand this afternoon's session of the conference will be devoted to this. I also agree with the message of our member states, insisting on not increasing the already existing administrative burden on aquaculture."
"Competition for space poses another major challenge to the economic development of freshwater fish farming or farming sites in coastal areas.Here we should look more carefully at how to site aquaculture in waters and on land, and also consider the potential co-location with other economic activities. For example, some member states are researching the option to co-develop aquaculture with wind farms or solar energy plants. I would also be interested in hearing whether there are any such projects as regards freshwater aquaculture."
Ms Damanaki said that very often, consumers were unable to recognise, let alone reward, the high quality of EU farmed products. "If we highlight these quality features properly, this can only be good for both citizens and industry. This also sounds as the main avenue as regards addressing the issue of the "level playing field".
The proposed creation of an Advisory Council for Aquaculture in our CFP Reform would provide a permanent consultation forum for all interested parties and can contribute to this perspective, said said.
Concluding, the minister said: "One quarter of all the fish products consumed in the EU comes from aquaculture. Over a third of our total seafood imports are farmed products. At global level, FAO estimates that today, half of the fish the world consumes comes from aquaculture; by 2030, it will be 65 percent. So production will keep rising. Aquaculture is likely to remain one of the fastest growing segments of the food industry. We cannot miss the train a second time!
"I do not believe in miracles. But I believe that human effort has the power to change the face of the earth, especially when it is done in common. Making EU aquaculture prosperous to feed our population sustainably is not going to be like a Sunday stroll. It will require our coordinated efforts. I look forward to debating with you on how to achieve such coordination."
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