However, safeguards are needed to prevent environmental and public health risks, says a resolution adopted by the European Parliament on Thursday. MEPs argue that clearer rules, less red tape and research investment are needed for the sector to take off.
The resolution drafted by Guido Milana (S&D, IT), and adopted by 420 votes to 15 with 7 abstentions, suggests ways of boosting the European aquaculture sector, which is lagging behind the industry in other parts of the world.
Clarity for businesses
The aquaculture sector requires investment, long-term planning and hence clear and stable rules, emphasise MEPs. They therefore call on the Commission to consolidate all EU legislation on this sector.
Future legislation should lay down standard certification criteria for products and basic parameters on environmental impact, use of water resources, feeding of farmed fish, molluscs and crustaceans, product traceability and labelling, fish health and welfare standards. Implementation and checks would be the responsibility of Member States.
Better information and less red tape
MEPs also stress the need to lay down rigorous quality and traceability criteria and clear labelling principles for high-quality and organic aquaculture products. The Commission is asked to introduce an eco-labelling programme for fishery and aquaculture products that follows the current general EU guidelines in the area.
Arguing that sector's success will largely depend on a more business-friendly environment, the resolution urges Member States to reduce red tape for start-ups, for example by creating one-stop shops for administrative formalities.
Funding: focus on sustainability
Additional funding via the future European Fisheries Fund is needed, with a focus on innovative farms with lesser environmental impact, says Parliament. However, financing should be available only for sustainable practices. Aquaculture systems which deplete wild fish stocks or pollute coastal waters must be deemed unsustainable, believe MEPs.
The resolution also argues that European aquaculture should give priority to fish species which do not need other fish as part of their feed or which require smaller amounts of fish meals and oils.
Lastly, pointing to the damage caused to aquaculture farms by birds of prey, in particular cormorants, MEPs repeat their call for a European cormorant management plan. They also stress the need to provide compensation for damage caused by animals that are protected by law.