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Red tape blocks potential for Euro fish farming, says MEP

BRUSSELS - European fish farmers are losing out to international competition because red tape, bureaucracy and endless directives are pushing investors, production and buyers towards more lucrative markets in China, Japan and Vietnam.

MEP Struan Stevenson says EU fish farming needs less bureaucracy if it's to remain competitive.

Speaking at at the 'Developing European Agriculture' conference in Brussels yesterday, Scottish MEP Struan Stevenson and Vice President of the ruling EPP-ED Group in the European Parliament, said that Europe was losing ground and not grabbing the economic opportunities of an internationally expanding market for farmed seafood.

"While marine fish stocks continue to fall, the opportunities for EU aquaculture are manifold. Europe used to lead the world in fish farming innovation and technological development, but EU fish farmers are now having to deal with 10 separate EU agencies and 400 European directives, not to mention planning and environmental constraints in the member states, before they can reel in a single fish. This is tying our once dynamic aquaculture sector into knots with red-tape," he said.

In Europe, the aquaculture sector provides more than 65, 000 full-time jobs, and is an economic lifeline to remote and peripheral coastal areas. Mr Stevenson said that the steady decline in output of the Scottish farmed salmon sector was a factor of 'European malaise' and political attitudes needed to change or this trend would be seen across the community.

Increasing EU legislation is allowing countries like Vietnam, China, Japan and Chile to seize market share and steal jobs from Europe and unless there was more flexibility in the licensing of medicines and fewer planning constraints, then the EU industry would be rendered uncompetitive.

“Our farmed fish are produced to the highest standards of any fish-farms in the world and we will not do anything to undermine that. However we must simplify the regulatory regime and free-up Europe's fish farmers to reclaim their rightful place as world leaders in this exciting industry," he added.