Worldwide, the aquaculture industry is growing rapidly and playing an increasingly important role in ensuring global food supply, accounting for almost half of all fish and seafood consumption.
In the EU, by contrast, the industry has not been part of this global upsurge, but has steadily lost ground despite the fact that the EU is heavily dependent on imports to meet strong consumer demand for fish and seafood.
The aquaculture sector in the EU faces a number of challenges which hamper its development or expansion. These include the difficulty of competing with third countries with lower costs and less stringent regulatory standards, the fragmented nature of the sector, competition between economic actors for space, difficult administrative procedures in relation to licensing/start-up and obstacles in accessing finance and investment.
Measures to give more prominent support to aquaculture as a separate pillar in the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), and the publication in April 2013 by the European Commission of strategic guidelines on the development of sustainable aquaculture in the EU, aim to address these issues and provide a fresh impetus for development of the sector. Under the proposals, Member States have been asked to draw up multi-annual national aquaculture plans, to be implemented via the open method of coordination.