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"The EU is producing farmed fish valued at over €3.3 billion annually, so this is a hugely important sector providing tens of thousands of well-paid jobs, often in peripheral or remote areas of the Community." This was the message from Struan Stevenson MEP, in a keynote speech to an international conference on the future of aquaculture organised jointly by the European Commission and the Austrian Ministry of Agriculture [See note 1].
Addressing a large audience in the Sala Schloss Mondsee, Salzburg on Friday 11th May, the Scottish Conservative Euro MP, who is Senior Vice President of the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee said:
"Some of the key problems affecting European aquaculture relate to the production side: increasing constraints from environmental concerns and from competition for space and aquatic resources. But there are also concerns affecting the marketing side. Aquaculture suffers enormously from inadequate marketing methods and from the negative public image of intensive farming conveyed by consumer and animal welfare associations. Of most dramatic importance in recent times has been the exposure of the EU sector to global competition as trade liberalisation grows.
"We are the leaders in technology and research, we have a strong and highly trained entrepreneurial base, our climate is appropriate for many species, and we have set rigorous quality standards. But these high standards inevitably mean higher costs, and make it more difficult for our fish farmers to compete in markets both at home and abroad.
"Europe used to lead the world in the production of farmed fish but in recent years we’ve taken our eye off the ball. We have allowed our non-EU competitors to assume dominance in the sector and we have seen our indigenous industry haemorrhage jobs to countries outside the EU. We import almost 60% of our seafood needs when we are perfectly capable of producing this food ourselves.
"Of course the industry does recognise the fact that sound European regulation provides protection to the consumer in terms of the quality and safety of fish and shellfish products and that consumer confidence is a vitally important issue. But the industry favours regulation, not strangulation.
"I have been banging on for ten years about the need for the Commission to pay more attention to the development of EU fish farming, while at the same time cutting regulation for the sector and at long last we have a Commissioner who has listened to and responded to our calls. Commissioner Damanaki is determined to cut red tape and to fund significant development in research and innovation in the sector under the EMFF. So if we grasp this opportunity, we can look forward to a bright future for the EU aquaculture sector."
Notes to Editors
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