Friday, 06 March 2020 14:09

Large potential for sustainable freshwater aquaculture in Europe

EM2 20 News Int aquaculture1The European Parliament held a stakeholder meeting on the current challenges facing the aquaculture sector, with emphasis on production. The speakers included fish farmers representing marine aquaculture in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean to pond farming in the Czech Republic, with additional experts from Hungary, Belgium, and Croatia.

Dr. Halasi-Kovács of the NAIK Research Institute for Fisheries and Aquaculture in Hungary underlined in his presentation, the potential of freshwater aquaculture. Presenting some general trends in the EU, he said, 85% of aquaculture production originates from marine sources while only 12 percent is from freshwater production. Production from pond aquaculture has not grown in the last decade within the EU, although globally freshwater aquaculture production constitutes 60 percent of total farmed fish production, while marine production contributes less than 30 percent.

EM2 20 News Int aquaculture2FAO and OECD predict that freshwater aquaculture, including pond aquaculture, has high growth potential, also in the EU. On a global scale, the potential growth for freshwater species is five times higher than that for marine species. In addition to unutilised potential, freshwater species, like carp, have the advantages of lying lower down the food chain, feeding on cereal based foods without the need for fish meal and oil. Pond aquaculture is the most resource-efficient animal protein production today, Dr Halasi-Kovács continued, because the production is based on natural processes and contributes to achieving the goals of the European Green Deal, preserving wetland ecosystems and biodiversity and promoting a circular economy. He also enumerated suggestions for boosting pond aquaculture in the EU: sustainable intensification; innovative solutions; subsidies for the additional costs of environmental services; and support to further freshwater aquaculture research.

The European Parliament approved a report it had commissioned entitled "Towards a sustainable and competitive European aquaculture sector" in 2018, in which it stressed the need to stimulate diversification and innovation in aquaculture. In the meantime, the European Commission is expected to publish new strategic guidelines for the development of aquaculture later in 2020. Quoting EU statistics Dr Halasi-Kovács said that in the last two financial periods these areas saw less than 5% of the available resources. One can hope that the coming period will be brighter for freshwater aquaculture.