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Aquaculture production

Indicator Specificationexpired Created 07 Oct 2004 Published 07 Apr 2005 Last modified 04 Sep 2015, 07:00 PM
Note: new version is available!
This content has been archived on 03 Mar 2015, reason: Other (New version data-and-maps/indicators/aquaculture-production-3 was published)
Indicator codes: CSI 033

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)
  • No published assessments


Justification for indicator selection

The indicator tracks aquaculture production and nutrient discharges and thereby provides a measure of the pressures of aquaculture on the marine environment. It is a simple and readily-available indicator but, as a stand-alone indicator, its meaning and relevance are limited because of widely varying production practices and local conditions. It needs to be integrated with other indicators related to production practices (such as total nutrient production or total chemical discharge) to generate a more specific indicator of pressure. Coupled with information on the assimilative capacity of different habitats, such an indicator would allow estimation of impact and ultimately the proportion of the carrying capacity of the surrounding environment used and the limits to expansion.


Scientific references

Indicator definition

The indicator quantifies the development of European aquaculture production by major sea area and country as well as the contribution of aquaculture discharges of nutrients relative to the total discharges of nutrients into coastal zones.


Production is measured in thousand tonnes, while marine aquaculture production relative to coastline length is given in tonnes/km.

Policy context and targets

Context description

Until recently there was no general policy for European aquaculture, although the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive (85/337/EEC & amendment 97/11/EEC) requires specific farms to undergo EIAs and the Water Framework Directive requires all farms to meet environmental objectives for good ecological and chemical status of surface waters by 2015. There are few national policies specifically addressing the diffuse and cumulative impacts of aquaculture as a whole on aquatic systems, or the need to limit total production in line with the assimilative capacity of the environment. However, limits on feed inputs in some countries (such as Finland) effectively limit production.

The new Reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) aims to improve the management of aquaculture. In September 2002, the Commission presented to the Council and to the European Parliament a communication on "A strategy for the sustainable development of European aquaculture". The main aim of the strategy is the maintenance of competitiveness, productivity and sustainability of the European aquaculture sector.

The strategy has 3 main objectives:

-Creating secure employment

-Providing safe and good quality fisheries products and promoting animal health and welfare standards.

-Ensuring an environmentally sound industry.


No targets are currently available. The Water Framework Directive requires waters around farms to meet environmental objectives for good ecological and chemical status of surface waters by 2015.

Related policy documents

  • Council Decision (2002/358/EC) of 25 April 2002
    Council Decision (2002/358/EC) of 25 April 2002 concerning the approval, on behalf of the European Community, of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the joint fulfilment of commitments thereunder.
  • Greenhouse gas monitoring mechanism
    Decision No 280/2004/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 concerning a mechanism for monitoring Community greenhouse gas emissions and for implementing the Kyoto Protocol

Key policy question

Is the current level of aquaculture sustainable?

Specific policy question

What is the environmental performance of aquaculture?


Methodology for indicator calculation

National data for the 34 European states was manipulated first into country groupings, then into production system groupings and finally into main species and country listings. All production calculations were performed in the Fishstat Plus programme rather in the Excel spreadsheets in order to take into account production < 0.5 t otherwise omitted when transferred into Excel spreadsheets.

Total marine aquaculture per km coastline = total aquaculture production in marine areas (as defined by FAO Fishstat Plus) by country minus coastline length of the country (km) Major area production per km coastline = (Sum of total aquaculture production in marine areas (as defined by FAO Fishstat Plus) by major area) minus (Sum of all coastline lengths of countries in that area (km))

Aquaculture discharge of N (tonnes) = total finfish aquaculture production in marine & brackish water areas (tonnes) x 5.5%

Aquaculture discharge of P (tonnes) = total finfish aquaculture production in marine & brackish water areas (tonnes) x 0.75%

Relative contribution of aquaculture N production to marine nutrient loads = Aquaculture discharge of N (tonnes) / total discharge of N (tonnes) x 100

Relative contribution of aquaculture P production to marine nutrient loads = Aquaculture discharge of P (tonnes) / total discharge of P (tonnes) x 100

Methodology for gap filling

No methodology for gap filling has been specified. Probably this info has been added together with indicator calculation.

Methodology references

  • FISHSTAT plus Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Fisheries Department universal software for fishery statistical time series.

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sets uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Rationale uncertainty

The weakness of the indicator relates to the validity of  the relationship between production and pressure. Production acts as a useful, coarse indicator of pressure but variations in culture species, production systems and management approaches mean that the relationship between production and pressure is non-uniform.

By presenting production relative to coastline length, it is possible to determine a more comparable value of production density.  This is potentially a better indicator of pressure than a single production value, but there are difficulties with this indicator. It is inappropriate for landlocked countries; it does not apply to freshwater production; it does not consider the area of coastline that is potentially suitable for production; and the determination of coastline length is problematic and relies upon uniform scale being used for each country's determination.

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Work description

The next step is to determine the relative environmental pressure (pressure per unit production) exerted by each production system and culture species, in order to generate a more accurate indication of pressure. Factors to consider include the rate of nutrient and chemical discharge, the number of escapes, and the incidence of disease per unit production. For finfish, the food conversion ratio (food given/fish production) coupled with information on food composition would provide an effective indicator of nutrient discharge. Modest improvements in national statistics could generate this information This data should be collected routinely and published by all major producing countries to provide time series data which could be incorporated within the EU and FAO databases.

Resource needs

No resource needs have been specified


Not started


2008/01/01 00:00:00 GMT+1

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Constança De Carvalho Belchior


European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
CSI 033
Version id: 1
Primary theme: Fisheries Fisheries


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Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year


DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
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