Created by producers for producers, FEAP (Federation of European Aquaculture Producers) represents 26 associations or national aquaculture federations from 22 European countries. It is therefore the legitimate representative of the European aquaculture sector where it is active on official consultative committees (CCPA(1), AHAC (2). FEAP also has official status with the FAO. Actively involved in RTD(3), programs, it circulates information within the profession and facilitates the positioning and promotion of action taken by national associations.
A.I. - What are European aquaculture's principal strong points?
Arnault Chaperon* - European aquaculture's major advantage is that it is situated by definition in Europe and that Europe is a wonderful market for seafood and fresh water products - the biggest in the world in fact. It is a market that is courted by other continents since we import more than 70% of the seafood we eat. We also offer a great variety of aquacultures, from intensive to extensive and involving a wide range of species. In addition, we carry out cutting-edge research, not forgetting of course the know-how accumulated by the industry's professionals over the decades.
A.I. - What is the sector's current situation?
A.C. - The paradox is that we have everything needed to succeed but that for the past 15 years we have been lagging behind other continents. European aquaculture is stagnating and even regressing whilst all over the rest of the world it is developing. A recent study by the European Parliament concluded that it is European legislation, notably on the environment that is contributing to this stagnation. Marine aquaculture is developing whilst fresh water aquaculture is regressing. We must, of course, take into account the financial crisis in Europe but we cannot believe that a steady increase in imports is the answer in the long-term.
A.I. - Does the organization of the industry, along the entire length of the chain, meet the requirements of volume and production management needed for its development?
A.C. - The upstream industries, such as fish feed manufacturers have become global industries and they have been able to develop alongside the aquaculture of the other continents. Downstream, industry is very efficient. Faced with the drop in European fishing quotas and the non-development of intra-community aquaculture, it has adapted and now imports the great majority of the products it processes. Nonetheless, a trend towards processing outside of Europe can be observed.
A.I. - What are the main obstacles to its development?
A.C. - It is a complex subject, but generally speaking, we would like to see a real development strategy for aquaculture at European and national level. In other words, a level playing field. European fish farmers are not afraid of competition but they want the rules to be the same for all both as regards food and its components. This means traceability and food safety, identical competition rules for everyone, regulations governing the agro-industry, animal welfare, the environment, working conditions, and consumer information because it is not acceptable that a product that has been frozen is sold on the fresh fish counter without sufficient information and lastly, more flexible and reactive regulations. One big question that remains is the approval of operating licences, the conditions for which discourage rather than encourage investment. 6 months are needed in Norway to obtain a licence as against 2 to 3 years in Europe.
A.I. - Was the last "Acquaculture on the Move" conference able to find the beginnings of an anwer to the question of how to stimulate the development of European aquaculture?
A.C. - This first Conference was a resounding success and its conclusions were taken up by Maria Damanaki, our European Commissioner during a meeting organized in Galicia the following month. Its conclusions place us all squarely in front of our own responsibilities and are as follows:
At European level the following is needed:
• Understanding, promotion and implementation of a level playing field.
• Deciding what information the consumer wants and needs.
• Simplifying and harmonizing the regulations that hinder the responsibilities of the various DGs (Mare, Sanco, Env(4) etc.).
• Respect for the specificities of aquaculture.
• Creating protective measures in order to progress, mainly with respect to fish health and the fight against predators.
At national level :
• Effectiveness of strategic national development plans. (We are keen to see the agenda!).
• Access to space.
• Realistic planning and simplification of licensing procedures.
• Simplification of the regulations.
• Increasing surveillance to reduce fraud and deceptive appearances.
At producer and processor level:
• The production of healthy, sustainable products (provided the preceding elements have been put in place).
• Better organisation within the profession - more producer organizations, more cooperative structures and better services.
• Using knowledge and innovation to build up a profitable competitive advantage.
• Investing in better facilities and reinforcing competencies.
At NGO level :
• Recognition of the sustainable development of aquaculture.
• Understanding of the role of European aquaculture.
• Understanding the differences between systems and species.
• Working together constructively with the professions.
At research organisation level :
• In order to attain the objectives drawn up by EATIP (5)
• Significant research for the benefit of the profession.
• Increased competitiveness.
• Development of fish food that will make aquaculture a more efficient food producer.
• Development of cutting-edge technology and systems that respect the environment whilst remaining economically viable.
• Improvements in health and welfare that will allow the rearing of healthy, high quality aquatic animals.
A.I. - What is the position of the inter-profession association as to the reintroduction of animal-based proteins into fish food?
A.C. - As soon as the European Commission and the EFSA have given us a full guarantee of the quality of these proteins, it is clear that the profession, still within a context of sustainability, would like to be able to reintroduce these products into the possible input of fish food. For us, this is moving in the direction of sustainability because it lowers the severe European protein deficit, and improves the famous FISH IN- FISH OUT of European aquaculture, the competitiveness of our farmers in a context where European frontiers are open to all the fish products that do not respect European regulations, and the carbon balance-sheet of our production by favouring local products rather than products that have traveled half-way across the planet. That said, since the subject remains very sensitive, certain national federations will need time to convince consumers of the merits of this European decision.