Aquaculture Development Trends in Europe

Laszlo Varadi1, Istvan Szucs2, Ferenc Pekar3,
Sergey Blokhin4 and Imre Csavas5
Fish Culture Research Institute, P.O. Box 47
H-5541 Szarvas, Hungary

Varadi, L., Szucs, I., Pekar, F., Blokhin, S. & Csavas, I. 2001. Aquaculture development trends in Europe. In R.P. Subasinghe, P. Bueno, M.J. Phillips, C. Hough, S.E. McGladdery & J.R. Arthur, eds. Aquaculture in the Third Millennium. Technical Proceedings of the Conference on Aquaculture in the Third Millennium, Bangkok, Thailand, 20-25 February 2000. pp. 397-416. NACA, Bangkok and FAO, Rome.

ABSTRACT: The aquaculture sector is diverse, encompassing traditional artisanal and family operations, medium-scale fish-farm businesses and multinational mariculture enterprises. Technology is likewise diverse. More than 90 percent of the aquaculture farms are small and geographically dispersed. In 1997, total aquaculture production from the region [excluding the former USSR countries) was 1.7 million mt valued at US$3.8 million, or 4.6 percent of world output and 7.6 percent of the total value. This 1997 output was 44 percent higher than that of 1988, but growth has been slowing down since 1990. Most of the production comes from mariculture, the share of fresh- and brackishwater production being only around 20 percent and 7 percent, respectively. Major species cultured are salmonids, although Europe also leads in the production of other species such as turbot, European eel, mussels, European seabass and gilthead seabream. The leaders are Norway, France, Spain and Italy, contributing together 67 percent of the region’s production. Carp in earthen ponds dominates the aquaculture of Eastern and Central Europe, although the total carp production was only 5 percent of the total aquaculture output of the region.

The critical features of aquaculture as a natural resource-based sector have been recognized within the European Union (EU), but there is need to strengthen aquaculture policy in countries where aquaculture is not yet considered as an equal-right user of resources. R & D support has been concentrated on the technical aspects, so that there is a need to start to place more emphasis on environmental and social aspects, for sustainability and competitiveness. Other constraints include increasing market competition, falling or static prices, and rising production and marketing costs throughout the region. In Central and East Europe, the absorption capacity of markets has shrunk due to decreased purchasing power. Most of their products are not competitive in the export markets. For the whole of Europe, competition from relatively cheap imports from other regions is another problem. Another trend seen in European aquaculture development is lower government intervention. However, the need is seen for centralized regulations and coordinated efforts to ensure equitable allocation and sustainable management of resources and more public participation in decision-making. The development of institutional capacities still requires considerable national and international effort in Central and Eastern Europe, with special regard to quality and disease control, training facilities, training in business management and information systems. Intra-European exchange of information and collaboration among institutions has been strong in the region. There is an emerging importance of producer organizations to provide members with price and market information, as well as acting as fora to develop common policies on a wide range of issues. Regional projects in Europe supported by EU are providing examples of the important role of information networking in bringing together scientists, producers, regulators and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to resolve various issues.

KEY WORDS: Aquaculture, Europe, Development, Fish Production, Fish Farming





The aquaculture sector in Europe6 is diverse, encompassing traditional artisanal and family shellfish and pond-culture operations through medium-scale fish-farm businesses to multinational marine farming companies. The applied production technologies also show great diversity. However, more than 90 percent of the aquaculture farms are rather small farms (MacAllister Elliott and Partners Ltd., 1999) that are geographically dispersed throughout Europe. The European aquaculture sector has emerged as an increasingly important contributor to the region’s food production sector and has grown significantly over the last two decades. Since European aquaculture is concentrated mainly in peripheral coastal and rural regions, there are also significant socio-economic benefits of aquaculture development in Europe. Much growth has been stimulated by consumer demand, as well as technological development work, making the different and various forms of production technically and economically viable.

The percentage contribution of European aquaculture to world aquaculture production has decreased since 1988 due to the higher rate of increase seen in other regions, mainly in Asia; however, it is growing in absolute terms (Fig. 1).


Analysis of aquaculture production, demand and consumption trends

Fish forms an important part of the diet of much of the population in Europe but, while the consumption of fish per capita has remained stable in most Western European countries, the past decade has seen a decline in Central and Eastern Europe. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) statistical data (Laureti, 1999) indicate that, in 1997, the average fish consumption was 18.7 kg/yr in Western Europe but only 7.0 kg/yr in Central and Eastern European countries. The share of fish within total meat consumption may be decreasing due to increasing competition with other products (mainly poultry and pork), but it is likely to increase in absolute quantity.

For the immediate future, a moderate rise in fish consumption is expected in Western Europe, but scope exists for a significant increase in Central and Eastern Europe. This increase will probably be slow due to the combination of economic and structural problems that have contributed to low disposable incomes for most countries in these areas.

Aquaculture as a source of food and contribution of aquaculture for human nutrition

Products of fisheries and aquaculture play an important role in European food supply. Most European aquaculture products have been perceived at some point as being high-quality or premium food but, more recently, the increased availability of some species has been accompanied by significant price reductions. Several media contributors have put forward the phrase “aquatic chicken” to describe farmed salmon.

Changes in eating habits have been significant, and general observations indicate that a decrease in red-meat consumption, a greater consumption of convenience food, and an increase in processed fish products are factors that have improved the market position of fish, although sometimes it continues to be perceived as a relatively expensive source of protein.

With the shortfall in supplies of captured fish, aquaculture has benefited from the increased demand for fish and fish products by supplying a variety of species and differentiated products.




Although competition exists between wild and farmed supplies, the extent of direct substitution is variable and depends on the species concerned. The contribution of aquaculture to food security has become and will remain important in certain regions of Europe, either directly, through consumption of the products, or indirectly, through the income and economic benefits obtained by the people involved in aquaculture and its related activities.

Regional production trends

Total European aquaculture production was 1.7 million mt in 1997, having a value of US$3 840 million, representing 4.6 percent of total world production in quantity and 7.6 percent in value. Compared to 1988, Europe’s contribution to global aquaculture production, while growing in absolute terms, dropped from 7.4 percent (volume) and 10.7 percent (value). The Annual Percent Rate of growth (APR) for the period 1988-1997 was 4.2 percent for production and 4.3 percent for value.

Within Europe, the European Community [EC) countries have shown different growth patterns. While providing 71 percent of regional production, representing 65 percent of value, the APR for the period 1988 to 1997 was 3.0 percent for production and 4.0 percent for value. These figures show diminished growth when compared to the non-EC European countries, whose APR was 8.0 percent for production and 5.0 percent for value.

As far as the aquaculture production in the individual countries is concerned, the most significant producers in 1997 were Norway (23 percent), France (17 percent), Spain (14 percent), and Italy (13 percent). These four countries together contributed 67 percent of the total European production (Fig. 2).

A general key observation is that the overall value has increased at a rate exceeding that of production, but this simple statement hides complex changes that have occurred within the sector, notably in respect of the production development patterns seen for the different species.

The products of European aquaculture are diverse and cover many individual species. The relative importance of the different groups is shown in Table 1.

  The most important contributors are the salmonid fish (salmon and trout), demersal marine fish (seabass and seabream), carps (common carp) and molluscs (mussels and oysters). The development of the relative share of the main groups is shown in Table 2.


Salmonids are the major species produced (46 percent of total volume and 60 percent of total value [1997]), figures that reflect considerable change from 1988 when this group represented 27 percent of volume and 52 percent of value, demonstrating a real reduction in value (per kg) of 30 percent.

In 1988, the main product was portion-size trout (200-300 gm individual size) which attained 191 000 mt of production, equal to 63 percent of European salmonid production. Atlantic salmon production was 107 500 mt (35 percent of European salmonid production). By 1997, the position had been reversed, with salmon equalling 62 percent (473 000 mt) and trout 37 percent (284 000 mt).

Atlantic salmon - Salmon farming has been dominated by Norway throughout the decade, reaching 333 000 mt in 1997. Other major producers include the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Faeroe Islands. The rapid growth of the industry has led to circumstances where supplies exceeded established demand, leading to price crashes and economic difficulties for the production sector.








These situations have caused significant restructuring within the sector, reducing the number of operating companies, which are increasingly vertically integrated.

Trout - Trout farming is done commercially in 23 European states, annual production exceeding 10 000 mt in Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom. The main species is rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), although there is limited production of brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) and brown trout (Salmo trutta), and growing interest for arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus).

Trout production is subdivided into two subsectors, namely that of “portion-size” and “large” trout. While portion trout is produced solely in fresh water, large trout is grown mainly in marine conditions to a size exceeding
1 kg. Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden are the main producers of this product. All trout production can be classified as intensive, where raceways, tanks and cages (marine) predominate.

The recent growth seen in Norwegian trout production has been influenced by limits placed on salmon production. The vast majority of trout farms are family-owned and operated businesses, which are distributed throughout Europe. Many are equipped to do primary processing (gutting, gilling), while others have full processing facilities (e.g. filleting, smoking, preparation of patés).


Five cyprinid species share the European scene, being the common carp (Cyprinus carpio), the silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), bighead carp (Aristichthys nobilis), grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus) and tench (Tinca tinca).

Carp farming is done mainly in extensive or semi-intensive pond-based systems, the latter being predominantly typical in Europe. There is a big difference in the production characteristics of Western Europe and Central/Eastern Europe, the latter producing 74 percent of European cyprinid production in 1997, compared to 80 percent in 1988.

The total European production dropped from 158 000 mt in 1988 to 91 000 in 1997, the biggest reductions being seen in the early 1990s and in the major production countries. Part of the reason for these circumstances was the social and economic change occurring in Central and Eastern Europe. However, limited market opportunities have also been noted, particularly given the rising availability of other inexpensive food products.

  Carp consumption in Germany is increasingly restricted to the festive seasons, and the production cost differences have given rise to increased imports of carps and lowered production in this country.

The use of carps for recreational purposes and restocking has risen in some countries, but without making an impact on the consumer market, it seems unlikely that carp production will rise to its former levels.

Demersal marine fish

Within the demersal marine fish category, European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) are the major species produced in European aquaculture. While their natural distribution is from the south of the North Sea to the Mediterranean, Mediterranean farms dominate the production of market-size fish. Most farms hold a mixture of stock, rather than just producing a single species.

Aquaculture of these species is done using each defined aquaculture system, the best-known extensive system being that of the lagoon-based “valliculture” in Italy. Juvenile fish enter the lagoon and are grown on naturally available food; at maturity the fish leave for the sea to breed and are caught in traps. A similar system is applied in Portugal.

Semi-intensive farming involves “improved” valliculture (i.e. administration of feeds) and is usually done in coastal ponds/ditches (e.g. salt marshes in Portugal). Intensive farming constitutes the majority of European production, where the preferred technology is the use of floating cages, moored close to the coast, although ponds are used mostly in Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Hatcheries are the source of fry for ongrowing and which often have to be transported long distances to the farm sites. In 1988, production of these species totalled 2 800 mt, worth US$41 million. By 1997, 53 500 mt were harvested, having a value of US$381 million. It is worth noting that the price dropped from US$15-17/kg to US$7/kg during the period examined. Greece dominates European production, with some 62 percent of the 53 500 mt produced in 1997, followed by Italy (16 percent), Spain (8 percent) and France (6 percent).

The major market for the products of this sector is Italy, which has traditionally received the bulk of Greek production, as well as that of the growing Turkish sector.




While some markets give a preference to seabass (e.g. Italy, France) others are more disposed to seabream (e.g. Spain, Greece). These predominantly Mediterranean products have experienced difficulties in establishing a clear position in markets elsewhere in Europe.

Prices halved during the decade examined, dropping from levels approaching US$15/kg to around US$7/kg and even lower recently (US$4-5/kg in 2000). While the gross argument for this circumstance is that increased supplies to a competitive market cause price reductions, it is a situation that mirrors similar difficulties experienced in other divisions of European aquaculture. Improvements in marketing and distribution have partially eased such circumstances, but market concentration within a few countries remains a problem.


Flatfish have long been of interest for aquaculture in Europe, where turbot (Psetta maxima), sole (Solea solea) and halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) have been candidate species for commercial culture. Turbot is the only species that has made a significant step forward, 3 050 mt being reared in six European countries in 1997, although production is led by Spain (1 800 mt) and France
(980 mt).

Intensive culture systems are required using juveniles supplied by marine hatcheries. Juvenile supply has been traditionally from northern Europe (United Kingdom, Germany) to production units sited on the Atlantic coast, usually in southern Europe. After two years, turbot reach market size, noting that correct pigmentation is a determinant factor for consumer acceptability. The market has posed less of a problem for this sector, since turbot supplies from the wild are low (less than 10 000 mt/yr) and the investment in production units is high, limiting the entry of investors to the sector. Production is anticipated to grow slowly with controlled expansion, a situation that should avoid weakening effects on the market.

Diverse fish species

There is a wide variety of species that can be counted within the data reported for European aquaculture, and the following section gives a brief review of the main characteristics and interest for these species:


Eels - Eel production in Europe is based on the ongrowing of juveniles (elvers) of the European eel (Anguilla anguilla), since no hatchery technology exists yet for artificial reproduction. Farming techniques can be divided into three main categories.

Extensive, the most ancient technique, exploits the natural tendency of the fish to enter brackish lagoons to grow. After five to seven years (on average) the mature fish leaves the lagoon for reproductive migration and is captured by fixed devices (“lavoriero”, “bordigue”). This technique is mainly used in Italy. Intensive farming uses concrete or earthen ponds for ongrowing, but requires warmer waters for growth, hence higher application in Italy, Spain and Greece. Water recirculation systems also use intensive farming criteria and have been the basis for recent developments in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden. Eels are held within small concrete or fibreglass tanks (+/-25 m2) and water is heated for maintaining optimal temperatures; the costs of doing this are countered by the treatment (biofiltration) and cleaning of the water for re-use. Oxygen injection and water sterilization are included in the process.

Production increased from around 6 000 mt (1988) to 8 000 mt (1997), with the Netherlands, Denmark and Spain providing the bulk of the increase. The producers using water recirculation tend to provide eels of a smaller size (under 170 gm), while those using ponds obtain the larger sizes (over 300 gm) that get better prices.

Investment in eel farming in northern Europe has increased rapidly in recent years, increasing supplies to the European market. Prices have dropped steadily and crashed at the end of the 1990s, dropping from $US11 (beginning of the 1990s) to US$5. The reasons for this appear to have been the compound result of higher elver prices and stagnant markets.

After a period of rapid investment in new production systems in northern Europe, a period of stability is foreseen, albeit with lower prices. The higher prices for elvers, increasing imports (from Asia) and the economic impact of operating water recirculation systems are factors that will continue to influence and may cause some restructuring within the sector. Nonetheless, the key issue to be resolved remains market expansion.





Catfish - Four main catfish species have been produced in Europe, the European catfish or “wels” (Silurus glanis), the black bullhead (Ictalurus melas), channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) and the African catfish (Clarias gariepinus). In 1997, the total combined production of these species was less than 2 500 mt.

The catfish “group” has been of interest to producers because of their fast growth rates and efficient food conversion. National approaches have also been very different. Black bullhead production was limited to Italy and has steadily stagnated, while African catfish (produced in heated-water recirculation systems) has been promoted in the Netherlands. European catfish production is spread around Central and Eastern Europe. Overall, consumer response has been weak for these species, limiting the effectiveness of promotional campaigns and continued producer interest.

Sturgeons - Sturgeon production has been of interest to producers in a number of countries, primarily as a result of investigations for caviar supply from mature fish. France (Acipenser spp.) and Italy (Huso huso) have led the way in Europe, requiring considerable stock investment because of the time required to rear the individual to maturity. It is only recently that the first “aquaculture” caviar was put onto the market, following nearly seven years of investment. Of additional interest, however, is the use of hatcheries and production units to supply fish for restocking; several European countries are looking at projects for the re-introduction of sturgeon into rivers and estuaries (e.g. in the Gironde area of France).

Tilapias - Tilapia species require warm water (>23ºC) for growth and commercial production. It is, therefore, only possible using a warmwater source or heated recirculation systems, a position that limits development to specific and isolated projects.

For certain species, the EC is a world leader, like turbot (100 percent), European eel (99 percent), mussels (70 percent), seabass/seabream (68 percent) and trout (54 percent). The main salmon producers are Norway, Scotland and Ireland, while the leading trout producers are France, Italy and Norway. Seabass and seabream are produced in the Mediterranean Region, where Greece is the largest producer. Carp species are mainly cultured in Central and Eastern Europe (170 000 mt and 60 555 mt in 1997, respectively), while in Western Europe carp is produced in much lesser quantity. (22 930 mt in 1997).





Two mussel species, Mytilus edulis (Atlantic, North and Baltic Sea coasts) and Mytilus galloprovincialis (Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts), are the core of over 500 000 mt of European production. There are three different culture techniques - using poles (“bouchot”), suspended ropes or bottom culture.

Pole culture: A “bouchot” is made of wooden poles, placed upright into the sea bottom. Mussel seed, collected (usually around March) either on poles (placed further out to sea) or on ropes, are transplanted onto growing poles (“boudinage”) in July. Harvesting occurs after 15 months of growth.

Suspended rope culture: For this technique, ropes covered with mussel seed are suspended either from metallic frames or from floating structures, enabling young mussels to remain under water permanently. Frames are built from metallic poles, placed upright into the ground, at water depths ranging between three to nine metres. Young mussels, placed in nylon net-bags, are grown throughout the year and harvested according to demand. Floating structures are rafts (“bateas”), saucers or longlines.

Bottom culture: This technique rests upon the harvesting of naturally produced young mussels and their spreading out on specially prepared growing plots and is a technique that is widely practised in the Netherlands.

European mussel production has fluctuated during the decade, with wide variations of harvests in Spain, the Netherlands and Germany during the early 1990s. After dropping to around 380 000 mt in 1993, production has recovered to former levels (514 000 mt in 1997). Where the value/kg started the decade at US$0.7, it dropped and stabilized at US$0.6 by the end.

Sectoral expansion has been seen in Greece, Italy, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, while Spanish production has dropped by over 20 percent during the period.

Pollution of intertidal mussel-growing areas has been a problem, and increasing environmental concerns can affect use of the coastal resource, a factor that could inhibit further development.




On the other hand, demand is quite stable and supplies seem to be under control, partly due to improved management of production aspects.

The mussel has not always been perceived as a safe food, and EC legislation was implemented during the decade to address this aspect. Furthermore, sectoral advertising and marketing campaigns have been initiated and more consumer-friendly products (ready-to-cook bags of whole mussels and a wide range of processed products) have successfully brought mussels into the multiple retail stores.


Ostrea edulis, the European flat oyster, is found the entire length of the Atlantic shoreline as well as in the Mediterranean, while two “cupped” oysters are also present. These are the Portuguese cupped oyster (Crassostrea angulata) (also called the “Japanese oyster” in Europe) and the Pacific cupped oyster (C. gigas), which comes from the Pacific Ocean. Production has risen slowly from 145 000 mt (US$336 million) to 160 000 mt (US$280 million), demonstrating an apparent price drop of 24 percent, from US$2.3 to US$1.75.

European oyster-growing techniques have developed in order to supply the market for fresh oysters, delivered in the shell. Cultivation is usually a three-year process that starts with the collection of small oysters on a support from which they can be easily removed after six to eight months. During the second year of culture, oysters are spread out in the intertidal range, either directly on the ground (bottom culture), or in bags on trestles, or suspended (Mediterranean shores).

Top quality oysters may undergo the process of “affinage”, where feeding on blue algae (Navicula sp.) gives a green tinge to the oyster, which is duly called a “fine de clair” or a “special”. European oyster culture is dominated by France, which had over 93 percent of production in 1997, and is concentrated between Caen and Arcachon on the Atlantic coast. This area provides over 80 000 mt of Crassostrea annually. The other European countries have limited production capacity, with Ireland, Spain, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands providing the remaining contribution.

Oyster farmers have long been susceptible to parasitic and viral disease outbreaks, and production collapsed in Italy at the end of the 1980s.


The density and proximity of individual production areas contribute to the rapid spread of such outbreaks. Increasing attention has been brought to the effects of marine pollution on oyster and other marine culture activities by the effects of successive oil spills from wrecked ships.

Production and price instability during the 1980s affected the potential for expansion of this sector. In addition, through occupation of the European coastal zone, there has been increasing competition with other coastal activities, most notably tourism. The sector is characterized by being composed mainly of small, family-owned businesses of limited financial capacity.

Marketing is done through cooperative and associated groups, and the professional capacity for these aspects has been raised by such actions. Adapting handling and packing stations to legislated sanitary and hygiene requirements has been difficult, due to the burden of investment, but this has now been applied generally throughout the sector. The future outlook is cautious, where production appears to have been consolidated with regular price drops, circumstances that indicate a concentration of production and increased sensitivity to market changes and/or external influences, such as marine pollution.


The aquaculture of clams has shown considerable development and change in Europe, where production increased from around 14 000 mt in 1988, to 55 000 mt in 1997 after peaking at 76 000 mt in 1995. The most notable change has been due to the introduction of the Japanese carpet shell into Italy, which now sustains a wild fishery representing 95 percent of national production. Where Portugal had been the major producer of clams (57 percent) in 1988, by 1997 it has been displaced by Italy, which had attained 73 percent of European production.

This is explained mainly due to the replacement of the European species, the grooved carpet shell, (Ruditapes decussatus) with the Japanese carpet shell or Manila clam (R. philippinarium) for reasons of improved resistance and higher growth. In addition, European hatcheries are capable of reproducing the Manila clam, improving seed supplies. The Regional Government of Galicia (Spain) banned the use of Manila clam seed for semi-extensive use on beaches, and several authorities are actively promoting the use of the native clam.




The values for clams in Spain and Portugal are considerably higher, grooved and pullet (Tapes pulastra) carpet shells being reported at levels higher than US$8/kg, while the Italian Manila clam values are closer to US$2.5/kg. Prospects appear good for this sector, due to steady and increasing demand, combined with good prices. The availability of appropriate sites and acceptance of the use of the Manila clam appear as the main limiting factors.


The cultivation of scallops has been of limited success in Europe. The great (Pecten maximus) and queen scallop (Chlamys opercularis) of the northern Atlantic have lent themselves to small-scale ongrowing in lantern nets hung from mussel-type long lines. The process remains based on capture of wild spat. Contamination by ASP (amnesic shellfish poisoning) toxins has been reported and may continue to cause problems to further expansion. Production is limited to Spain, France, Ireland and United Kingdom, with European production being around 450 mt in 1997.


While crustaceans are popular with the consumers, European aquaculture has yet to be able to supply requirements. European populations of wild crayfish were virtually wiped out by the crayfish plague, and the signal crayfish (Astacus leniusculus) and the red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) were introduced as candidate species for aquaculture. At present, aquaculture of these species has contributed very little.

Many crustaceans are popular with the European consumer, but efforts for aquaculture and stock enhancement have given little fruit to date. Strong supply circumstances in Asia and Latin America make it difficult to envisage large-scale, commercial production that is technically feasible and profitable.

Nonfood aquaculture species
Aquarium and pond fish

Europe is a substantial importer of live exotic fish species, both freshwater and marine, many of which are of tropical origin. Ornamental carps (e.g. koi) and other freshwater species are being reared, and the possibility of developing this activity further appears promising, particularly for domestic purposes. Little is known of the position for marine ornamental species.



Salmonids: Juvenile Atlantic salmon, brook trout, brown trout and rainbow trout are produced by hatcheries Europe-wide for enhancing native stocks or for restocking purposes, destined for sport or recreational fisheries.

“Coarse” fish: This refers to nonsalmonid species that offer sporting value and includes bream, carp, perch, pike, roach, rudd and tench.

Other: The ragworm (Nereis virens) is highly regarded as bait for seafish angling. Pilot projects have given promising results.

The estimated contribution of nonfood aquaculture is under 1 percent in both volume and value and, although growth will occur, this proportion is not expected to change significantly in the medium term.

Comparison of production trends within the region

The European aquaculture industry is an emergent, diverse and productive contributor to the region’s food production sector and has grown significantly over the last two decades. Much of this growth has been stimulated by extensive scientific and technological developments that have made different production activities technically and economically viable.

Between 1988 and 1997, the broad pattern of aquaculture development has been:

  • high growth in Northern Europe,
  • medium growth in Western Europe,
  • low growth in Southern Europe, and
  • decline in Central-Eastern Europe.

The development of production (quantities and values) for these geographically defined areas is given in Table 3. Value development has generally not followed production volumes, indicating price reductions in Northern, Western and Central/Eastern Europe. Southern European production has diminished for some species and increased for others, resulting in a “value” contribution that has improved. Central/Eastern European aquaculture entered into a period of decline at the end of the 1980s, which appears to have stabilized at the end of the period examined.




In general, Northern Europe’s aquaculture growth has been largely underpinned by increases in salmon and large trout (>1 kg) cage farming. Western European growth has been supported by salmon, trout (portion-size) and molluscs, all of which have reduced in value during the time-period. Southern Europe has shown strong growth in marine fish farming and moderate growth in freshwater fish production (trout), while mollusc culture has fluctuated.

The decline of aquaculture in Central/Eastern European is linked to being predominantly freshwater carp production. Pond-based fish production has decreased dramatically after the political and economic changes in Central and Eastern Europe.

In spite of the significant differences between the aquaculture sector in different regions in Europe, markets are the major issue, in which consumer demands, international competitiveness, health, environment and product quality are the determining factors of success.

Apart from this geographic distinction of aquaculture, within Europe one cannot ignore the political and economic distinction of the European Community (EC). The grouping of the 15 EC Member States shows that it provides 71 percent of European production volumes and 65 percent of the value (Table 3).

Population growth, demand and consumption

In general, the total demand for any commodity would be expected to grow in proportion to the growth of population, since the latter determines the overall size of the market. Significantly, the growth rate of the population in Europe is less than predicted. (FAOSTAT, 2000).

Recent projections have shown a slight increase of population in Western Europe (0.3 percent per annum), and a decrease in Central-Eastern Europe (0.1 percent per annum).


As far as the disposable income of the populations is concerned, the demand for fish in Western Europe will not change much under the predicted economic growth (2.5 percent per year), while in Central-Eastern Europe the future fish consumption will be directly associated with the predicted gradual increase in disposable incomes.

The total per capita apparent fish consumption in 1997 was about 22 kg/yr in the EC countries and 6-9 kg/yr in the Central and Eastern European countries (Laureti, 1999). Increased fish consumption is expected, especially in Central-Eastern Europe, where per capita fish consumption is now very low.

The demand for fish products is influenced by consumer awareness (e.g. health and sanitary issues), disposable income (e.g. consumer choice of fish/crustaceans/molluscs vs. competitive food products) and availability (e.g. choice/availability within retail stores). It is believed that there will be a decline in demand for high-priced aquatic products, although such demand may shift to lower priced fish products. The future demand for fish will basically be determined by the number of consumers, their eating habits and disposable incomes, as well as by the price of fish products. Many of the changes that will occur in the level and structure of fish consumption will reflect more complex demographic and attitudinal variables. Ageing populations, changing gender roles, smaller household sizes, dietary concerns, food safety issues and ethical concerns are influential factors that exist throughout Europe. While future fish consumption will benefit from these trends, quantifying their effects on demand and consumption is difficult. Positive effects are expected due to an increased interest in healthy eating, but negative effects could be anticipated in respect of food safety concerns.

Recently, Western Europe has also seen the effects of two major incidents concerning food safety.





The first of these was the occurrence of bovine spongiform encephalitis (BSE) or “mad cow disease”. The effects of this disease have been wide-ranging and severe, the most recent action being a six-month ban on the use of animal meals as feed ingredients for food-producing animals. The second incident was the discovery of accidental dioxin contamination of feeds used in the Belgian poultry industry in 1999. These incidents have raised the profile of the food supply sector, and very close examination of ingredients and practices has ensued, both in the public and private sectors. Without doubt, the public image of the food production sector has been damaged and consumer confidence impaired.

The long-term effects of the legislative controls and reviews are difficult to assess, but it is clear that European agriculture and aquaculture will be controlled more closely, either through legislative action or through nongovernmental governance techniques. These will be necessary, not only for the legislator, but also for the confidence of the consumer.

Additional measures that may influence fish consumption include the application of quotas on fisheries activities, notably for the EC Member States, positions that could reduce national supplies.

Aquaculture contribution to rural development and poverty alleviation

Aquaculture has a positive role in rural development, both in coastal and inland situations. In inland circumstances, agriculture and forestry have been the main elements of such rural development programmes throughout Europe. Increased integration between aquaculture and agriculture could be a good means to improve rural life through multiple use of resources. Although the main element of aquaculture will remain food production, the importance of various services to be provided in recreation, rural tourism, nature conservation and water management will increase in the future, and this will provide employment and business opportunities for the rural populations.

The contribution of marine aquaculture to employment and reduced rural migration has been noted in a number of countries, for example, Norway, United Kingdom/Scotland, and Greece, particularly in several rural areas where few alternative economic activities have been able to provide stable, longterm jobs.

  Generally speaking, aquaculture has yet to play a major role in European economies, although some notable exceptions exist. Salmon represents the second-most important export commodity of Norway, and aquaculture is an important contributor in specific areas within countries (e.g. oysters in the Oleron area of France, salmon in the highlands and islands of Scotland, seabass/seabream in Greek islands).

Capacity of european aquaculture for development

Available natural and human resources provide a good basis for the further development of European aquaculture. Concern as to the scarcity of water is important in some inland areas of Europe, which will lead to tough competition among various water users. From the production point of view, environmental issues, notably those concerning effluents from intensive fish farms, will also determine the future development of this sector.

During the development of intensive land-based systems, the efficient use of water is a primary criterion that is applicable not only to tank use, but also to pond-based fish farming. A considerable proportion of fishponds, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, will be used for the semi-intensive production of traditional species (e.g. carps) for the local markets, using agricultural by-products and cheap protein resources for feed inputs. In general, more emphasis should be given to the development of aquaculture technologies integrated with agriculture, industry, water management, recreation etc., encouraging the multiple use of water resources. There will also be an increasing trend for such diversification in pond aquaculture, directed towards intensification, waste recycling and integrated resource use.

In coastal areas, water quality problems have also become critical factors in aquaculture development. One can forecast the increased use and application of technological developments for the expansion of coastal aquaculture, primarily for minimizing the different environmental impacts of the activity (e.g. offshore and submersible cages, improved feeds and feeding technologies, controlled waste disposal etc.).




The development of intensive aquaculture production (predominantly in cage and tank systems) is likely to follow the development pattern of other agricultural food production sectors, being applied to all subsectors of aquaculture (i.e. increased process intensity, wider use of advanced technologies and equipment, high-quality products, high level of processing etc.).

Further application of water treatment and recycling systems for the production of higher value species is expected in the future. Nonetheless, the environmental benefits of this need to be balanced with the economic requirements (i.e. higher investment and operating costs) of using such systems.

Cage aquaculture is and will remain an important production technology for marine species, and there will be a strong trend toward the wider use of offshore cages. Increasing competition with tourism facilities throughout Europe provides an opportunity, supplying the consumer, and a challenge, integration of a production activity with the demands of tourism (e.g. pristine views).

There is a considerable scope for much greater integration among the various users of the aquatic resources, a philosophy that is reflected in policies for Integrated River Basin Management and Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM). However, the elaboration of complex, integrated technologies requires the strengthening of research and development in this field, together with the corresponding adjustment of the institutional system. The key elements for the future technical success of aquaculture are the improvement of the existing technologies and good aquaculture management practices.

The following key challenges and issues must be resolved for successful aquaculture development in the future.

Recognition of aquaculture as a preferred user of resources

The operation of some intensive aquaculture systems has led to the sector being regarded as a major polluter of the aquatic environment in some developed countries in Europe. There is adequate scientific proof for aquaculture to defend its position but, in order to be a user of aquatic resources with equal rights to others, it needs to:

  • improve its public perception,
  • be more proactive, and
  • be transparent and accountable at the same time.

Efficient use of primary resources

Aquaculture has good possibilities to be recognized as an efficient user of primary resources, applying modern methods, equipment and good management practices in intensive monoculture production systems.

Extensive or semi-intensive polyculture fishpond systems are also efficient users of primary resources, since within these systems fish production is based on naturally available nutrient resources. The combination of intensive monoculture and extensive polyculture systems, as well as the integration of aquaculture with other agricultural production activities could also increase the effectiveness of the use of primary resources.

Increased use of available resources (land, water)

Many of the best and most obvious sites for aquaculture production in Europe contain aquaculture projects, meaning that there is high competition for the remaining suitable areas. Furthermore, it is a time-consuming and lengthy process to obtain approvals for the use of new sites. Therefore, the main trend in the future will be to increase production and improve the efficiency of water (e.g. recycling, water treatment) and feed use in all areas of aquaculture, probably accompanied by the wider application of offshore cages in marine aquaculture.


“Sales and marketing” is a phrase that summarizes the major constraint for European aquaculture development. The entire sector has faced increased market competition, falling/stable prices and rising production costs, as well as market restructuring throughout Europe. The geographic dispersion of production and the concentration of markets (i.e. the multiple retail stores) have combined to impose a more professional and coherent approach for the sale of aquaculture products.

In order to meet present and future market requirements, identified solutions include species/product diversification, added-value processing, quality assurance schemes, branding and generic marketing.




Restructuring within the profession has also become a reality, where increased buy-outs and mergers within the corporate sector have resulted. Nonetheless, more than 93 percent (by number) of aquaculture enterprises are small, family businesses (Fédération Européenne de Salmoniculture, 1990).

Increasingly, grouped sales (through cooperatives or other structures) are being used in order to adapt to market requirements and to obtain economies of scale. In the future, one should anticipate further consolidation of sales and marketing within specific producer organizations in order to respond to the changing market requirements.

Intensification of production

Intensification of production is a key technical issue in European aquaculture. Where appropriate conditions are available, intensification will continue to be an important option for the producer, provided that the productivity of existing systems will increase, and that good financial and economic performance is pursued.

However, a large part of the considerable areas of fishponds in Central and Eastern Europe will remain to be used for the semi-intensive production of traditional species such as carps. Integration of aquaculture with agriculture and the use of polyculture technologies would increase productivity.

Recently, concern on welfare issues concerning farm animals have been extended to fish, and this topic will need to be correctly addressed by the aquaculture production sector.

Increased culture-based fisheries

There is significant potential for the development of culture-based fisheries. In Europe, recreational fisheries and tourism have increasing importance within the uses of water bodies such as lakes, reservoirs and rivers, and aquaculture has the potential to be an important service-provider to these purposes. Besides providing species of commercial importance, the supply of indigenous species and endangered native species for stock enhancement can be envisaged as viable activities.

Increase in integrated aquaculture

There is a great scope for integration of pond aquaculture with agriculture, water management and natural parks; however, clear priorities should be set up in the use of a particular area. Wastewater fishponds might play an important role in the future for the recycling of organic wastes.

  The principle of polyculture will need to be reconsidered; for example, species that feed at a lower level in the food chain could be used for water quality control, improving the conditions for the intensive production of species that require formulated feeds.

Increasing technical efficiency

There are three main systems whose increased development and application are foreseen:

  • water efficient and environmentally friendly recycling systems for the production of higher value species, especially in areas where geothermal water resources are available;
  • offshore deployment of marine cage aquaculture facilities; and
  • increased mechanization for increased productivity within pond fish farming.

Research priorities should include the following areas:

  • fish disease (e.g. vaccination, systems management approach),
  • genetics (e.g. genetic engineering),
  • feeding (e.g. fish meal substitution, environmental protection),
  • product quality, and
  • marketing.

Getting more people involved in aquaculture

A recent study (MacAlister Elliott and Partners Ltd., 1999) projected an 18 percent increase in direct aquaculture employment for the EC countries by 2005, which will result in further increases in the up- and downstream industries. Similar trends would be expected in other non-EC countries where aquaculture plays a role within the national economy. Although no similar data are available from Central and Eastern European countries, recent trends indicate that significant increase is expected in the number of new entrants as a result of the restructuring and privatization of the aquaculture sector.

Community involvement

There has been good progress in developing community involvement in the preparation of aquaculture strategies, plans and regulations in Western Europe, particularly within the EC countries. There is a need, however, for the further improvement of community involvement, particularly in respect of natural resource management issues.




Such actions are to prevent or resolve conflicts, on resource use, through the involvement of all of the stakeholders in a given area.

Producer associations or organizations play a very useful role in order to assist the extension of actions across all sectoral participants. While the principle of subsidiarity has been widely recognized and is applied increasingly in Western Europe, it is neither well understood nor well applied in Central and Eastern European countries. The reasons for this are not only the reluctance of the authorities and official bodies to involve the communities within their decision-making process, but also the passivity of those communities, which is based on past experiences in the centrally planned economy. The enlargement of the EC, and the efforts made to improve democracy and stability in the accession countries, will improve this situation.

Key issues and constraints

Technological issues

The key issues of aquaculture development in Europe are defined by the two main categories of production (Tacon, 1997). These are, on the one hand, the intensive production of higher value species (salmonids, marine finfish and molluscs) in Northern, Western and Southern Europe and, on the other hand, the semi-intensive and extensive production of lower value freshwater finfish (mainly cyprinids) in Central and Eastern Europe.

With regard to intensive production, the main sectoral issues include the risks of over-production and market saturation, the dependence on fishmeal and oils for formulated feeds, decreasing mollusc production in Southern Europe, and increasing competition with other users for the available water resources. For extensive and semi-intensive production, notably that of Central and Eastern Europe, the main issues are related to the drastic changes resulting from the political-economic transition. These include the collapse of the state subsidies to the sector, high inflation and interest rates and the consequent lack of capital, the loss of traditional markets and competition for water resources (Tacon, 1997).

  Aquaculture will no longer be looked at in isolation; its interactions with other factors and activities of importance and the manner in which concerns can be answered will clearly affect the success of the technology to be used.

Institutional issues

Substantial differences in legislation (between countries) and administration (within countries) are key problems for successful aquaculture development. Special regard should also be given to small and medium size enterprises (SMEs), on the one hand, and to the Central-Eastern European Region on the other. Free-trade policies exist within the EC and are being promoted in an increasing number of non-EC countries. Centralized regulations to ensure the equitable allocation and sustainable management of resources might be desirable, in order to establish the “level playing field” that is required within a free-trade scenario.

The role of public consensus, consultation and participation in the decision-making process will increase for all stakeholders. The development of the institutional capacity to adapt to these circumstances will be important for achieving these goals.

The development of institutional capacity in Central and Eastern Europe still requires considerable effort to be made at national and international levels, with special regard to fish inspection systems, technical training facilities, advisory service training and fisheries information systems.

Socio-economic issues

The principal issues of concern come from the very structure of European aquaculture, which is highly diverse and composed of:

  • traditional artisanal and family shellfish farms,
  • small-/medium-/large-size pond farms,
  • medium-size trout and brackishwater farms,
  • intensive land-based and marine farms, and
  • multinational marine fish farms.

The small, family-owned farms occupy, without doubt, a disadvantageous situation at present, where the changes in policies, legal and regulatory frameworks, and market structures; the increasing competition for resources; the increasing competition in the market;




and the increasing complexity of the business environment make it extremely difficult to find optimal management options, especially within the capacity and structure of the small enterprises.

Social tensions and economic difficulties in Central-Eastern European countries have been created during the transition period into the market-driven economy. Decreased economic growth rates, collapsed state subsidies, high inflation rates and decreased disposable incomes of the populations have created serious social tensions in most of these countries.

Environmental issues

There are increasingly stringent environmental regulations and tough competition for resources. Sustainable development is the overriding strategic issue in European aquaculture, and will continue to be so in the foreseeable future. Legislation within the EC now encompasses most of the activities and resources used by aquaculture, a situation that is often seen as a high hurdle that is restricting development opportunities.

Governments need to create an “enabling” environment through appropriate policies and legal frameworks. The application of the principles of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries should be encouraged and the development and implementation of better management practices is seen as a priority.

Financial and economic issues

Although aquaculture is clearly a market-led business in developed European countries, support measures by governments and international organizations should be available to assist sustainable aquaculture development. This could be achieved directly (e.g. structural funding through the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance of the EC) or indirectly, through research support. Special funds should continue to be provided for Central-Eastern and South-Eastern European countries (e.g. the PHARE7, ISPA8 and SAPARD9 facilities).

Market and trade issues

Responding successfully to market and trade issues is the key for a stable and reliable European aquaculture sector. Market constraints are due to the increasing market competition, falling/stable prices and rising costs, and a significant restructuring of the market throughout Europe (Stirling Aquaculture Ltd., 1996a,b).


Europe, especially the EC, has been a traditional target market for aquaculture products from many exporting countries, where tropical shrimp, salmon, eels, seabass and seabream number amongst the most important products (Lem and Shehadeh, 1997).

The shift away from auctions to multiple retail stores as the first point of sale (as well as being the final one) has also imposed new “rules” within many European markets, especially since competition within the retail division is also very strong. The replacement of the fishmonger by the supermarket’s fish counter has also transformed the way in which the consumer buys fish and seafood products. Consequently, for the producer, the multiple retail stores have become the most important route of access to the consumer. This circumstance has also meant a reduction in the number of buyers, while aquaculture expansion has increased the number of sellers. This concentration of buying power has weakened the market position of the producer/seller.

Supplies from European fisheries are increasingly subject to stock management restrictions, and the fisheries sector also has to respond to the issues of sustainability and biodiversity. The availability of products from European fisheries is likely to diminish and be accompanied by rising prices. Aquaculture products would be expected to occupy a larger portion of the food market, since the sector is capable of supplying a wide range of species and product forms. While import realities (such as the trade of salmon and shrimps) would not be expected to change significantly in the future, the availability of a large internal market and the scope for species/product substitution (fisheries or imports) will be the main stimuli for aquaculture development in Europe.

Development and research

Scientific research and technological development stimulated significantly the growth of European aquaculture. A broad and well-developed aquaculture research capacity, possessing effective resources and concentrated skills, exists in much of Europe. However, serious constraints have developed in Central and Eastern Europe, primarily through inadequate core funding and weakened infrastructure.





An increasing trend has been the incorporation of private funding from aquaculture operators for specific research and development projects; indeed this is increasingly imperative for the maintenance and development of support facilities within the research sector. The lack of equipment, inadequate core funding and poor international contacts have been cited as restricting factors for the Central and Eastern European research sector. A number of EC-financed projects have facilitated both intra-European and international collaboration and networking.

The EC’s Fifth Framework Programme10 (1998-2002) provides support for research and technological development, within which sustainable fisheries and aquaculture are among the key actions identified. Priority areas for aquaculture research include:

  • interactions between the environment, fisheries and aquaculture;
  • scientific basis for fisheries management; and
  • improvement of aquatic production.

Research centres and university departments that are involved in aquaculture research possess many years of involvement and collaboration with the aquaculture production sector; producers who are involved directly in research also use external specialists. Increasing recognition has been given to market-led or demand-led applied research, requiring closer contact between researchers and operators, which has been recognized as a key element of the Fifth Framework Programme. This also promotes transnational collaboration and network establishment that builds closer links between science and industry. The development of efficient networks within all of the different subsectors of European aquaculture is, without doubt, one of the major challenges in the short term.

Two projects oriented towards assisting aquaculture are the “Aquaflow” and “Maraqua” projects, both of which are EC-financed. “Aquaflow” was initiated to provide a wide and rapid information flow on the progress of EC-sponsored aquaculture research and development projects. It is composed of a pan-European network of scientists and aquaculture associations who diffuse one-page project summary papers directly to individual producers and scientists, in the national language of the country concerned.


The network extends throughout Europe, including EC and non-EC countries, and has become an efficient tool for improved communication and contact establishment, and has included the organization of specialized workshops between scientists and operators.

The EC research programme also supported a project that has looked at the “Monitoring and Regulation of Marine Aquaculture” or “Maraqua”. This project has involved the creation of a partnership where 25 organizations from 16 countries are involved, bringing together scientists, producers, regulators and voluntary organizations in an effort to coordinate and provide means for the efficient exchange and review of information. While the project does not involve new research, it instead concentrates on the review of existing information and issues and hopes to develop guidelines for the monitoring and regulation of marine aquaculture in Europe.

Major issues and constraints common to all regions


All natural resources are finite, and the demands on aquatic resources from differing production and service sectors are increasing. Water scarcity and growing difficulties of access are factors that lead to competition between the different users, including fisheries and aquaculture, and have become critical issues throughout Europe. The mechanisms and methods for assessing the impacts of various activities on aquatic resources are reasonably well established, but overcoming the complex problems of interactions remains to be solved. The Water Framework Directive of the EC addresses the core problems of water management, including the obligations of users and managers, for these purposes.

The key issue is the promotion of the sustainable use of water resources, at an optimal level of exploitation and acceptable to all users. Appropriate strategies for sustainable water resources management should also include social, economic and recreational considerations, as well as biodiversity and natural habitat issues of the wider environment.

Institutional and policy development

A broad and well-developed institutional capacity exists for aquaculture support in many Western European countries, but this is weak in Central and Eastern Europe.



Considerable national and international efforts are needed to improve this situation. While there is a trend towards reducing direct government intervention in development, centralized regulations and laws are still required to be able to ensure both the appropriate allocation and sustainable use of resources. The critical features of aquaculture as a natural resource-based sector have been recognized within the EC, and it is likely that aquaculture will occupy a more important part within future policies. However, there is still a need to strengthen aquaculture policy in those countries where aquaculturists do not have user rights that are equal to other activities using the same resources.

Improved transnational collaboration and networking between the different players in the sector is needed for bringing together scientists, producers, regulators and policy makers in order to facilitate the efficient exchange and review of information throughout the entire sector.

Technology development

In recent years, scientific support for aquaculture has focused mainly on technical aspects of production, with less emphasis on environmental and social linkages. However, technological developments for sustainable operation are within the overriding strategic issue for aquaculture and will continue to be so in the foreseeable future.

This strategy includes technical, economic, legal, social and physical components and should ensure fair access to resources and mechanisms for conflict resolution. Since technological development has become a complex issue involving many aspects of the prevailing social, economic and environmental conditions, the key element of the future competitiveness of aquaculture is not just technical improvement, but also the successful adaptation to the challenges mentioned above.

Market development

In spite of the substantial differences seen for aquaculture production in the different regions of Europe, marketing problems are and remain a major constraint for immediate aquaculture development. In Central and Eastern Europe, the absorption capacity of local markets has shrunk due to decreased consumer purchasing power, and most of their aquaculture products have little export potential.


Competition with cheap imported products is also a constraint for further development of the European aquaculture sector.

The geographic dispersion of the smaller enterprises makes coherent and effective marketing actions difficult. In addition, the possibilities for pan-European promotion of aquaculture products have yet to be realised. The expansion of Mediterranean fish farming has encountered market limitations through focusing on a few major markets, accompanied by limited efforts in “new” (northern European) markets. This can be compared to the expenditure made by the Norwegian aquaculture sector in promoting salmon throughout Europe.

These limitations, particularly when compared to more traditional agriculture sectors (e.g. poultry, pork), are beginning to be recognized and more cooperative efforts for marketing efforts will ensue. This will probably be accompanied by the creation of more producer organizations that are capable of assuming the marketing and promotional aspects that are needed for market development.

Issues and constraints specific to the regions

The marine area from France to northern Norway offers excellent conditions for mariculture. In 1997, the share of this “northern European region” was about 52 percent of all European aquaculture production (mainly through the production of Atlantic salmon, large trout and shellfish).

The evolution of salmonid farming has been impressive since the early 1980s, and further expansion of the European salmon industry is expected in spite of the increasing potential competition with non-European producers, (e.g. Chile, Canada). Shellfish production, however, has shown little to no increase, and overall development has been slow in spite of resource availability.

The size and influence of the aquaculture industry has been small compared to that of other livestock agriculture (e.g. poultry, pork and cattle). The main constraints to the expansion of coastal aquaculture in this region are certainly environmental concerns that, in many cases, are based on insufficient knowledge. The economic potential and accompanying social benefits of aquaculture have probably not yet been fully recognized, a situation that may prevent the equitable access for mariculture to the natural resources.






Aquaculture production increased almost exponentially in the “Mediterranean region” during the past 15 years, its expansion being due to technological developments, institutional support and important investments in production inputs and, especially, facilities (mainly marine cages). Market development has been slower than the rate of expansion, which has caused significant price drops (34 percent in the past three years). Nonetheless, continued growth is expected with the introduction of productivity, managerial and organizational improvements. Market constraints relating to poor information services, uncontrolled trade and quality problems need to be eliminated and be accompanied by improved promotional and support services.

The inland areas of Europe have decreasing importance in quantities of aquaculture production compared to the coastal areas, as indicated in Table 4.

The contributions of freshwater aquaculture have declined, both for quantities and value, since freshwater production has stagnated at around 340 000 mt annual production. Furthermore, this hides the fact that increased EC production has been the counterfoil for reductions in non-EC European countries.

Inland aquaculture plays an important role in rural areas, where freshwater fish farming is an important source of fresh food and provides employment. The main constraint for the development of inland aquaculture is the competition for limited and vulnerable freshwater resources and obtaining permissions for access.

Freshwater aquaculture is of special importance in Central and Eastern European countries, but is likely to be bound by considerable structural an economical problems during their transition to market economies.

  Some special measures of assistance, either related to existing structural policies or EC accession (conditions relative to accession treaties) may help specific cases.

Approaches and strategies for overcoming the constraints and addressing opportunities

Institutional and policy development

In spite of the trend towards reduced government intervention in development, there is a greater need for centralized regulations and coordinated efforts to ensure the equitable allocation and sustainable management of resources; thus the role of public consensus and participation in decision-making will increase.
Integrated river basin and coastal area [including landscape] management have become targets of primary importance, requiring multisectoral integration with the involvement of the government agencies and stakeholders concerned.

The development of institutional capacity still requires considerable national and international efforts in Central and Eastern Europe, with special regard to the establishment of fish inspection systems (quality and health control), technical training facilities, business management training, advisory service training and fisheries information systems.

Sectoral consultation between the institutions responsible for aquaculture and the production sector needs improvement in several European countries. National aquaculture associations may need to be reinforced in order to respond to the different problems that are encountered. Within Europe, the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP) unites the national aquaculture associations and is one of the interlocutors nominated to the EC Commission’s Advisory Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture.





This committee allows consultation and debate on many of the issues raised in this review, enabling improved communication and understanding between the stakeholders and the legislator.

Technology development

Key issues are to increase system productivity, and improve product quality and the competitiveness of the sector without deterioration of the environment. Technology development should focus primarily on offshore mariculture, wastewater treatment techniques, substitute materials for fishmeal and fish oils, polyculture and management assistance tools.

The role of science and technology is vital and must be recognized as an essential enabling service. Research needs to be promoted in a broad and interlinked manner, being guided by strategic considerations.

Market development

The improvement of information flow is a basic precondition for overcoming market constraints. Market transparency and a clearer understanding of market mechanisms, regulatory factors and competitive trends would be of particular benefit to the small enterprises. The FEAP will continue to be a very important link among industry representatives, policy makers and scientists.

Species and product diversification should be important elements of future market expansion strategies; further research is needed on technology developments for improving productivity, promising species, disease protection and processing technology.

The improvement of the public perception of aquaculture products must also be of strategic concern. Besides generic promotion, niche and brand marketing actions, the environmental and dietary attributes that are associated with aquaculture and its products are likely to be influential in determining acceptability and market expansion in the future.

Opportunities for inter-regional cooperation

EC organizations play a significant role in the development of inter-regional cooperation, not only within the EC but also on a pan-European level, through different international fora and specific actions.

  As a result, there is a relatively active inter-regional exchange of information and collaboration between aquaculture institutions and organizations, which helps the European aquaculture community to combine efforts to increase sectoral efficiency.

The enlargement of the EU to Central and Eastern Europe gives a historic opportunity for Europe to unite peacefully. Supplementing the existing PHARE, two new instruments are being introduced in favour of the accession countries:
a framework for assistance to agriculture and rural development (SAPARD), and
a new programme to support regional policy development (ISPA).

Although aquaculture and fisheries are not specifically mentioned within the objectives of these new instruments, they can be integrated into both programmes through related activities.

The Fifth Framework Programme of the EU has also given good opportunities to facilitate inter-regional collaboration between the different players of the aquaculture industry. Additional EC-funded specific programmes, such as TEMPUS11, INCO-COPERNICUS12, PECO-COPERNICUS, and the Science for Peace Programme of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO-SFP), have also improved intra-regional collaboration and networking between research institutions and universities.

In order to support the development of aquaculture and fish processing in Central and Eastern Europe, the EASTFISH project was established, which is funded by the Danish government and executed by the FAO. Different international organizations and institutions (European Commission, FAO, the European Inland Fishery Advisory Commission (EIFAC), the General Fisheries Council for the Mediterranean (GFCM), FEAP and the European Aquaculture Society (EAS)] provide data and information on aquaculture. The increased involvement of professionals from Central and Eastern European countries in the work of these organizations would significantly improve broader international cooperation.

An increasingly important role of producer associations is to provide information to farmers, with special regard to legislation, sectoral problems and market and price information. The FEAP has established an efficient forum for exchange of information among its 28 national associations from 21 European countries.




FEAP also acts as a common forum for these associations to discuss and develop common policies on a wider basis. Projects that aim to improve flow through networking are playing an increasingly important role in bringing together scientists, producers, regulators and NGOs, where the examples of “Aquaflow” and “Maraqua” have already been described. Further linking and networking for specific and broad issues can only contribute positively to European aquaculture development.


FAO, 2000. FISHSTAT Plus – Version 2.3.

Fédération Européenne de Salmoniculture. 1990. A market study of the portion-sized trout in Europe.

Laureti, E. (compiler.) 1999. 1961-1997 fish and fishery products: world apparent consumption statistics based on food balance sheets. FAO Fish. Circ. No. 824, Rev. 5, 424 pp.

Lem, A. and Shehadeh, Z.H. 1997. Review of the state of world aquaculture. p. 80-85. In Selected developments and trends: international trade. FAO Fish. Circ. No. 886, Rev. 1. FAO, Rome.

MacAlister Elliott and Partners Ltd. 1999. Forward study of community aquaculture. Summary report for the European Commission, Fisheries Directorate General.

Stirling Aquaculture Ltd. 1996a. The present state of aquaculture in the EU Member States and its future up to 2005. Aquaculture: development, environmental impact, product quality improvements. Vol 2. Luxembourg: European Parliament, Directorate General for Research, Directorate A, the STOA Programme.

Stirling Aquaculture Ltd. 1996b. Technical aspects and prospects for a sustained development of the aquaculture sector, Aquaculture: development, environmental impact, product quality improvements. Vol 3. Luxembourg: European Parliament, Directorate General for Research, Directorate A, the STOA Programme., 70 pp. + annexes.

Tacon, A.G.J. 1997. Review of the state of world aquaculture. p. 120-125. Regional reviews: Europe. FAO Fish. Circ. No. 886, Rev. 1.



1 [email protected]

2 [email protected]

3 [email protected]

4 [email protected]

5 [email protected]

6 The review covers the following subregions/countries: Northern Europe - Denmark, Faeroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden; Western Europe - Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland and United Kingdom; Southern Europe - Albania, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, and Yugoslavia; Central and Eastern Europe - Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. Countries marked in bold are members of the European Community (EC).

7 PHARE (Poland and Hungary: Action for the Restructuring of the Economy) is one of the EU’s financial instruments in support of the EU’s enlargement. 0riginally targeted at two countries, it has been extended to 14 countries in Eastern and Southern Europe.

8 ISPA (Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-Accession) is intended to assist the candidate countries in the preparation for accession to the EU.

9 SAPARD (Special Accession Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development) is intended to assist pre-accession countries in their agricultural sectors and rural areas, targeting specifically the areas of environment and transport.

10 The Framework Programmes are the policy guidelines for research, technology and development.

11 The TEMPUS programme is the trans-European cooperation EC-supported scheme for higher education.

12 The INCO-COPERNICUS programme promotes scientific and technological cooperation with the countries of Central Europe and the New Independent States.