TCS Daily

The Future of Fisheries

By Jens Kyed - June 27, 2002 12:00 AM

BRUSSELS --The European Union wants an increase in aquaculture production to meet the decline in its fisheries. Hopes are that this will bring new jobs to unemployed fishermen, but there will be no fresh money to boost developments in a sector that must improve its environmental record.

"We want to promote sustainability in aquaculture," Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler said as he presented the Commission proposal for a new common fisheries policy last month.

In the proposal, aquaculture is only mentioned in a couple of lines, and Mr. Fischler did not spend much time on the issue during his presentation. Despite of the low focus on this sector, Fischler did note that aquaculture is going to be increasingly important to the European Union in the coming years. This fall the Commission will present a separate paper on the future of this sector. The aim is that aquaculture production will soften the effects of over-fishing and the proposed reductions in fishing effort and fishing fleet.

MEP (Member of European Parliament) Niels Busk, a Danish member of the Fisheries Committee, believes that aquaculture has a bright future. "It is reasonable to believe that the future of aquaculture lies in producing the species that have become scarce due to over-fishing. In the North-Atlantic that means in particular Cod," says Mr. Busk. He does not believe that many new producers will start with salmon production, as this could lead to over production.

Dr. Constantin Vamvakas, Head of Unit Aquaculture in the European Commission, suggests that the emphasis will be on diversifying the production. "Although there is no overproduction of any species in aquaculture in the European Union at present, the Commission will promote the introduction of new species," says Vamvakas.

He explains that the Commission is currently preparing a separate communication on the aquaculture sector, which he hopes will be approved by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers by the end of the year.

Guy Vernaeve, Secretary General in Europeche, and Hough Courtney, the General Secretary in FEAP (Federation of European Aquaculture Producers) both see a bright future particularly in fresh water aquaculture. In the new member states in Central Europe fresh water aquaculture is more developed than in the old member states. They see a big potential for development here.

"Carp and trout are becoming increasingly important to our members," states Mr. Vernaeve, and Mr. Courtney believes that other niche products will gain in importance too. "Swedish and Icelandic producers are having success with the production of Arctic Char which they export to the USA. In France fish farming of Sturgeon produces eight tons of caviar a year, and in Hungary producers are interested in taking up such production too, " says Mr. Courtney, who also sees new species entering salt water production -- such as Cod in Northern Europe and Tuna and Sea bass in the South.

"The main problem for salt water production is that apart from Greece, Ireland, Scandinavia, and Scotland, Europe does not possess a coastline that is favourable to salt water aquaculture, unless it is being done in big tanks on shore, " explains Mr. Courtney. He believes the topography therefore will be limiting the growth potential of seawater aquaculture.

But so may also the environmental issue.

"The issue of environmental sustainability is becoming increasingly important. Ordinary fish farming leads to huge quantities of pollution within a very restricted area. I believe we will see a higher focus on this problem in the coming years, and there will be demands for mechanisms that can impede the pollution from dispersing in the ocean where it can be destructive to the sea environment," explains MEP Busk. He points out that all the wastewater from fresh water fish farms in his home country Denmark, already today must be cleansed before it can be released in nature.

Margot Wallström, the Commissioner responsible for the Environment recently said: "fish farms have their own problems in that they take up space in costal zones and cause marine pollution. It has been estimated for example that salmon fish farming in the Nordic countries releases nitrogen in quantities found in the sewage of 3,9 million people." Ms. Wallström suggests the introduction of strong anti-pollution measures to secure a sustainable future for aquaculture in the sea environment.

Dr. Vamvakas fully supports Ms. Wallström´s concerns. "It is important for the Commission to ensure a sustainable development in this sector. There are three issues that are of high importance to the Commission: Firstly, it is important to ensure that the health of the consumer is protected - ensuring that the products are healthy. Secondly, it is important to protect the environment. Aquaculture must be developed along lines that respect the environment. And thirdly, the socio-economic aspect is highly important. The development of aquaculture must be creating new jobs wherever possible, and in particular this is important in remote and fishery dependent areas," explains Dr. Vamvakas.

Dr. Vamvakas will not promise any fresh money to help new aquaculture producers getting established. However, since the Commission's proposals in the end will be evaluated and decided upon through a political process in the European Parliament and in the Council of Ministers, Dr. Vamvakas may not get the last word in this matter.



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