fish farmAquaculture production in almost all European countries has stagnated. Photo: Quentin Bates

The global annual growth rate of aquaculture has greatly declined over the last years and a new report outlines the reasons why.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO) ‘The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020’ (SOFIA) report titled ‘Sustainability in Action’, factors contributing to this decline include the adoption of broader environmental regulations, reduced availability of water and suitable production locations, increasing outbreaks of aquatic animal diseases and decreasing aquaculture productivity gains.

After decades of 6% to 10% interannual growth rates, 2018 has seen an increase of only 2% over 2017. Two decades ago Europe already walked that path in advance and, since the turn of the century, aquaculture production in almost all European countries has stagnated, noted the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP).

Growth outside Europe

The overall picture appears positive. SOFIA 2020 informs that worldwide total aquaculture harvest in 2018 reached an all-time record of 114,5m tonnes.

FAO recognises countries in which aquaculture production continues to grow, both developing (like Egypt, India, Indonesia, Vietnam or Bangladesh) and developed (like Norway or Chile).

The reasons for these exceptions are region dependant, but a trend is clear: in the twenty-first century aquaculture growth requires political will to promote appropriate policies, strategies, and private and public investment, stated FEAP.

Certainly, further technical issues have to be addressed on feeds, genetic selection, biosecurity, disease control, digital innovation and business developments. But the European Union aquaculture statistics show that solving these hurdles is not enough. The adoption of aquaculture spatial planning or ecologically sound technological innovation are necessary but never sufficient.

FEAP said that Europe’s aquaculture development serves as a warning to the rest of the world that the biggest challenge for the continued advancement of this sector is the adoption of appropriate general governance decisions aiming specifically to promote the development of aquaculture amid all other economic activities.

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