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Commission tables strategy for fish farming to benefit jobs, consumers and environment


Brussels, 19 September 2002

For the first time ever, the European Commission has issued a strategy for the sustainable development of European fish farming (aquaculture).

This strategy is part of a series of proposals issued by the Commission to reform the Common Fisheries Policy.

Aquaculture can generate much needed jobs in coastal areas which suffer from a chronic lack of employment opportunities. It provides a regular supply of safe, quality fisheries products at affordable prices.

“No doubt, the Commission is ambitious. In the next years, we want to create 8 000 jobs in the fisheries sector which has been suffering from important job losses. But our strategy makes clear that boosting fish farming must not be achieved at the expense of the environment, food safety or quality.", Franz Fischler, Commissioner responsible for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries said.

Mr Fischler will present this proposal to the Council of Fisheries Ministers to be held on 24 September. Other concrete reform proposals will follow shortly. These will relate to Mediterranean fisheries, improvement of scientific advice, control and monitoring of fisheries activities and fishing beyond EU waters.

A strategy for an economically self-sufficient industry

The Commission's strategy is based on three objectives:

· Creating secure employment particularly in fisheries dependent areas: the target is the creation of 8 000 to 10 000 full-time job equivalents over the period 2003-2008.

· Providing safe and good quality fisheries products and promoting animal health and welfare standards.

· Ensuring an environmentally sound industry.

To meet these objectives, the Commission proposes the following measures:

· Secure employment

Employment in aquaculture offers alternative jobs for fishermen who leave the catching sector. The creation of new jobs in this sector will mainly be achieved by increasing production from 3.4% to 4% per year.

Increased production: this increase must come from diversification in new species and from making aquaculture more environmentally friendly. To achieve this, public aid should be refocused on measures to strengthen existing businesses, encourage training, monitoring, research and development activities and promote clean farming technologies.

Special assistance could be provided for aquaculture activities that are particularly beneficial for environmental protection. Existing legislation on organic products will be extended to include aquaculture.

Tackling competition for space: in some areas, potential development is already hindered by competition for space between various users of coastal waters: small-scale fisheries, aquaculture, tourism… The Commission believes that aquaculture should be integrated in strategies based on Integrated Coastal Zone Management which is best adapted to tackle multi-uses of the coastal areas.

Stimulating the market: demand for aquaculture products could grow from the development of quality labels and measures to improve the image of the industry.

Member States are encouraged to provide support for measures to collect and transfer commercial information as better knowledge will help improve marketing. Fish farmers are urged to set up partnerships to co-ordinate supply as a way of making up for the lack of economy of scale of small farms.

Social considerations: aquaculture has an important role to play in rural and coastal development and in reversing decline in coastal communities. Member States are encouraged to adapt funding opportunities for aquaculture in the context of the mid-term review of the EU structural funds in 2003-2004.

The Commission underlines the role of women and encourages the use of European Social Fund programmes to improve opportunities in aquaculture.

Improving governance: stakeholders must be more involved in the development of the aquaculture industry. Given the lack of specific legislation for aquaculture - though there are national measures implementing EU Directives - there is scope for the development of codes of conduct and codes of practice to reduce the risk of distortion of competition.

· Safety of aquaculture products and animal welfare

Public health: the need to ensure a high level of health protection for the consumer has led to the adoption by the Commission of a recasting of legislation on hygiene of foodstuffs.

Reviews of the levels of dioxin in feed and food are planned for 2004 and 2006 with the aim of reducing the maximum tolerated levels.

Current monitoring and control of the presence of antibiotic and other residues in aquaculture products will be strengthened.

More research on toxic algal blooms which threaten public health and cause damages to fisheries and aquaculture is necessary as they represent one of the most serious limiting factors for the future of shellfish farming in Europe.

Animal health: the Commission will carry out regular updates and simplification of the legislation on animal health. It also proposes to modify some of the existing pharmaceutical legislation in order to address the specific needs of aquaculture.

Animal welfare: improvements in the welfare of captive livestock can improve public perception of intensive farming. The Commission is currently involved in an initiative by the Council of Europe to formulate a recommendation on farmed fish. When this recommendation is adopted, the Commission will consider proposing specific legislation.

· An environmentally sound aquaculture