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Organic Aquaculture Rules Promise Sustainability

Sustainability Politics

EU - There are plans to develop a a coherent and consistent organic aquaculture policy for the EU over the coming years to allow this sector to grow.

Up to now organic aquaculture has been regulated through a combination of national rules in four Member States and various private schemes, only a few of which have operated beyond a single Member State. This situation has been far from satisfactory in terms of the single market as free movement has not been guaranteed throughout the 27 Member States.

Citizens are becoming more aware as time goes on of the benefits of fish and seafood for health. The increase in organic fish and shellfish production using natural substances and processes will increase consumer choice.

In 2007 the EU agreed an updated framework for organic production and labelling which for the first time included aquaculture. This lays down objectives, principles and general production rules, but implementing rules to lay down detailed production rules were needed before Member States could translate this into practice. These were adopted for agriculture in 2008.

In the case of aquaculture, Regulation 710/2009 [3], which enters into force today (30 June), sets conditions for the aquatic production environment and for impacts on other species.

This was a cooperative venture with the technical input coming from the fisheries side of the Commission and the procedural aspects from the agriculture side. It deals with the separation of organic and non-organic units and specifies animal welfare conditions including maximum stocking densities, a measurable indicator for welfare.

For example the maximum stocking density for salmon is set at 10 kilograms per cubic metre (kg/m3) in net pens in sea water and 20 kg/m3 in freshwater.

For sea bass and sea bream the maximum density is 15 kg/m3 in the sea and four kg/m3in earth ponds and lagoons. It specifies that biodiversity should be respected, and does not allow the use of induced spawning by artificial hormones.

Organic feeds should be used supplemented by fish feeds derived from sustainably managed fisheries.Special provisions are made for bivalve mollusc production and for seaweed.

In 2008 an estimated 123 certified organic aquaculture operations were in operation in Europe, out of a total of 225 such farms worldwide. These accounted for almost half world production of 50,000 tonnes in 2008.

The top five Member States in production terms are the UK, Ireland, Hungary, Greece and France. The top species is salmon and organic salmon retails at a price premium of some 50 per cent over conventional farmed salmon.

Market growth is particularly strong in France, Germany and the UK. Some €17m seafood is sold under the organic label in France where the market grew by 220% between 2007 and 2008. In Germany, in addition to the specialized organic supermarket outlets, organic seafood is now on offer in discount chains which also operate across the EU.