Citation Bostock J, Lane A, Hough C & Yamamoto K (2016) An assessment of the economic contribution of EU aquaculture production and the influence of policies for its sustainable development. Aquaculture International, 24 (3), pp. 699-733. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10499-016-9992-1
Abstract This review paper examines the structure of the EU aquaculture sector, the contribution it makes to the EU economy and the policy environment for past and future development. The primary analysis uses statistical data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations which has been re-categorized according to species groups established by the European Aquaculture Technology and Innovation Platform (EATiP) and by culture system type using expert knowledge. Additional data sources for the analysis include the European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products (EUMOFA) and the European Commission Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries. EU aquaculture production was 1.34 million tonnes in 2012 with a first sale value of €4.76 billion. Shellfish comprised 45% by volume and 28% by value; marine fish 30% by volume and 53% by value; and freshwater fish 25% by volume and 19% by value. The total production volume has actually fallen slightly from 1.4 million tonnes in 2000, whilst the value has increased significantly from 2.79 billion in 2000, mainly due to a growth in Atlantic salmon production. Five countries accounted for around 78% of the direct output value of EU aquaculture in 2012, the UK, France, Greece, Italy and Spain. Around 50% of the direct output value was generated using marine cage systems (28% by volume), whilst less than 3% of value was generated in recirculated aquaculture systems (<1.5% by volume). Around 5% of value was contributed by extensive to semi-intensive inland and coastal pond systems. STECF (2014) estimates there are between 14,000 and 15,000 aquaculture enterprises in the EU employing around 80,000 people, approximately 40,000 full-time equivalent (FTE). The greatest number of jobs (FTE) is provided by the freshwater pond and suspended shellfish sectors due to much lower productivity figures. This could be seen as a social benefit in rural and coastal regions, but corresponding low wages could also discourage young entrants to the industry and lead to dependency on migrant workers. Where efficiencies can be improved through capital investment there is likely to be significant scope for consolidation of ownership as can be observed in the marine fish sector. The output from aquaculture has to find a place within the wider fish and seafood market where volumes are generally inversely related to price. The potential growth of the sector is therefore constrained both in relation to the overall market and with respect to competition from substitute products. These include product from EU capture fisheries as well as imports from third countries (sourced from aquaculture and capture fisheries). Whilst interactions between individual products can be hard to demonstrate, any increase in production costs is likely to lead to lower output volumes, whilst improvements in production efficiency can lead to increased output volumes. With around 60% of EU fish and seafood supply obtained through imports, and little prospect of increasing outputs from capture fisheries, EU policy is generally supportive of sustainable aquaculture development for reasons of food security and economic development. The underlying basis for this is maximizing the quality and health benefits of farmed products, whilst improving resource efficiency and minimizing impacts. This is expressed through funding support for research and technological development and structural funds to the fisheries and aquaculture industries. However, constraints to growth also exist in the form of regulatory barriers and costs that reduce industry competitiveness. Changing market requirements are also a factor. Prospects for growth have been assessed using the results of EATiP stakeholder workshops combined with the analysis of the sector by system type. These suggest an overall increase in production by 55% is possible by 2030 based mainly on expansion of marine cage-based farming using larger systems in more exposed sites and similarly shellfish farming using larger-scale suspended systems. Expansion of recirculated aquaculture systems appears likely based on entrepreneurial and European policy for research and technological development activity, although constrained by currently low competitiveness.