Regional review on aquaculture development. 6. Western-European region 2005.

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
20 August 2007, at 1:00am

By K.J. Rana Institute of Aquaculture. First published by FAO Fisheries Circular No. 1017/6


The world population is on the rise, as is the demand for aquatic food products. Production from capture fisheries at the global level is levelling off and most of the main fishing areas have reached their maximum potential. Sustaining fish supplies from capture fisheries will, therefore, not be able to meet the growing global demand for aquatic food.

At present, the aquaculture sector contributes a little over 40 million tonnes (excluding aquatic plants) to the world aquatic food production. According to recent FAO predictions, in order to maintain the current level of per capita consumption at the minimum, global aquaculture production should reach 80 million tonnes by 2050. Aquaculture has great potential to meet this increasing demand for aquatic food in most regions of the world. However, in order to achieve this, the sector (and aqua-farmers) will face significant challenges.

A major task ahead for sustainable aquaculture production will be to develop approaches that will increase the contribution of aquaculture to the global food supply. These approaches must be realistic and achievable within the context of current social, economic, environmental and political circumstances. Accurate and timely information on the aquaculture sector is essential in order to evaluate the efficacy of these approaches and how they can be improved.

Under the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department’s current work programme, the Aquaculture Management and Conservation Service (FIMA) of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Management Division, using a wide-ranging consultative process, regularly conducts reviews on the status and trends in aquaculture development (FAO Fisheries Circular No. 886 – Review of the State of World Aquaculture and FAO Fisheries Circular No. 942 – Review of the State of World Inland Fisheries). The last review (both regional and global) was conducted in 1999/2000 and was published following the Global Conference on Aquaculture in the Third Millennium held in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2000 (NACA/FAO, 2001, Aquaculture in the Third Millennium). These reviews are seen as important milestones and the documents produced are recognized as significant reference materials for planning, implementing and managing responsible and sustainable aquaculture development worldwide.

As part of this continuing process and with the current objective of preparing a global aquaculture development status and trends review, FIMA had embarked on a series of activities. These are:

  • National Aquaculture Sector Overviews and National Aquaculture Legal Overviews in selected countries;
  • Prospective Analysis of Future Aquaculture Development – PAFADs in selected countries;
  • five regional workshops to discuss the status and trends in aquaculture development in Asia and the Pacific, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Near East and North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa; and
  • seven regional aquaculture development status and trends reviews in Asia and the Pacific, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Near East and North Africa, North America, sub-Saharan Africa and Western-European region.

This document presents the regional synthesis for the Western-European region. This review is based in part on data and information compiled and synthesized by the author. Preparatory work for the review of aquaculture in the Western European region was undertaken by FIMA in consultation with experts of the European Aquaculture Society (EAS), the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP), and the CONSENSUS Project. In 2005, the CONSENSUS project facilitated the preparation of six thematic status and overview papers on most recent issues and trends in European aquaculture. These six papers are made available in this report in the attached CD ROM which has been contributed by the CONSENSUS Project.


FAO regularly conducts global and regional reviews of aquaculture status and trends, most recently during 2005 and 2006. The present regional synthesis for Western-Europe provides an overview of major issues and trends in the aquaculture sector. Stagnating capture fisheries and soaring demand for seafood products in Europe have spurred the expansion of aquaculture in this region. In 2003 farmed finfish accounted for 62 percent in volume and 79 percent of value while farmed molluscs accounted for 38 percent and 21 percent of volume and value, respectively. The expansion between 1994 and 2003 was dominated by marine finfish production particularly of Atlantic salmon in Norway (71 percent), United Kingdom (19 percent) and Faeroe Islands (10 percent). Seabass and seabream farming in Greece, Turkey, Spain, Italy and France in 2003 accounted for 95 percent of production. The increased production and supply of fish was accompanied by falling farmgate prices triggering restructuring of the industry, as well as substantial increases in volume of the key finfish species. The review confirms features of a maturing aquaculture industry including specialization, increasing skills and professionalism, diversification of technology and products, efficient production, vertical integration and market development. The growing environmental and social awareness and recognition of consumer and food safety preferences by the industry and the public sector are contributing to good farm management and governance measures which are enabling effective efforts towards sustainable development and responsible practices in aquaculture.

The Western-European region (W-ER)

For this review the target countries in the Western-European region (W-ER)1 were: Austria, Belgium, Channel Islands, Cyprus, Denmark, Faeroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and United Kingdom (UK).

1. Characteristics and Structure of the Sector

1.1 Introduction

The impetus for the successful and sustainable aquaculture in the W-ER is based on two key linked drivers. The historically and traditionally established use of finfish and shellfish as integral components of a healthy diet by coastal as well as inland populations and declining wild fish stocks and consequent reduction in capture fisheries activities in Europe.

A broad assessment of recent aquaculture output may be divided into three market or consumer segments:

  1. one that is driven by historic and traditional consumption of aquatic products such as shellfish;
  2. another by economic affluence promoting consumption of high image marine finfish such as salmonids, tuna, turbot, seabass and seabreams, and
  3. another which is that fish is a healthy product to consume, an approach that covers all fish products from capture fisheries and aquaculture.

The rise in consumption across the W-ER is also sustained by the consistency of supply of assured quality products demanded by well-established multiple retail stores, including increasingly supermarkets.

Across the W-ER these incentives and opportunities for development and investment continue to occur against a backdrop of rising population, overall growth of economies, expanding European trading blocks and changing structural reforms. The rate of growth of the aquaculture sector will therefore in part be influenced by demographic changes, the economic health of the individual target countries in the W-ER and national priorities afforded to its expansion. The European Union is in third place worldwide in terms of population, and although it is in a clear distance behind the highly populated countries of China and India, it is ahead of the United States of America, Brazil and Japan, and is a major consumer of aquatic products from the W-ER.

To read the full report, please click here (PDF 71 pages)

August 2007