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Aquaculture production

Indicator Assessment Created 13 Mar 2008 Published 18 Feb 2009 Last modified 03 Sep 2015, 07:17 PM
Note: new version is available!
Indicator codes: CSI 033

Key messages

European aquaculture production has continued to increase rapidly during the past 15 years due to expansion in the marine sector in the EU and EFTA countries.  This increase represents a rise in pressure on adjacent water bodies and associated ecosystems, resulting mainly from nutrient release from aquaculture facilities. The precise level of local impact will vary according to production scale and techniques as well as local and regional hydrodynamics and chemical characteristics.

Is the current level of aquaculture sustainable?

Annual aquaculture production by major area

Note: Countries have been grouped into the following categories: EU-15: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Finland, Sweden, United Kingdom

Data source:

FAO FISHSTAT Plus

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Annual aquaculture production by country in (EU-15 + EFTA + Balkans + AC), 2001 and 2005

Note: Production includes all environments i.e

Data source:

FAO FISHSTAT Plus

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Annual production of major commercial aquaculture species groups, 1990 - 2005

Note: Includes all countries and production environments for which data are available

Data source:

FAO FISHSTAT Plus

Downloads and more info

Annual aquaculture production by major area

A significant increase in total European aquaculture production has been observed in the past 15 years although this has slowed since 1999. In general, significant improvements in the efficiency of feed and nutrient utilisation as well as environmental management have served to partially mitigate the associated increase in environmental pressure. The increase in both production and pressure on the environment has not been uniform across countries or production systems.  Only the mariculture sector has experienced a significant increase, while brackish water production has increased at a much slower rate and the levels of freshwater production have declined. On a regional level, EU 15 + EFTA countries dominate production by far.

Europe's fish farms fall into two distinct groups: the fish farms in western Europe grow high-value species such as salmon and rainbow trout, frequently for export, whereas lower-value species such as carp are cultivated in central and eastern Europe, mainly for local consumption.

The observed growth in production has not come without problems.  According to DG Fisheries ''the European Aquaculture industry is facing a number of challenges in terms of market and of the environment. Its future will depend on its ability to become economically self-sufficient and its capacity to respond to environmental constraints''.

Production by country

The biggest European aquaculture producers are found in the EU 15 + EFTA region.  Norway has the highest production with more than 650 thousand tonnes in 2005, followed by France, Spain, Italy and the UK.  These 5 countries account for nearly 75% of all aquaculture production in 34 European countries. Even the smallest of these, the UK, produced 172 thousand tonnes in 2005, which is significantly higher than production in any European country outside of this region. Turkey's production of nearly 120 thousand tonnes represents, substantially the highest production in the countries grouped as EU-9+others.  The country ranking in 2005 in terms of production was very similar to that in 2001 although Spain and Italy both reduced their output significantly and whilst Norway increased its production by nearly 29%.  Turkey increased its output from 2001 to 2005 by 77%.

It is noteworthy that in 2005, farming of Atlantic salmon in Norway (being about 90 % of Norway's total production) exceeded the combined total of all production species from countries grouped in EU 15 + EU 9 + others. France is the second biggest producer with production dominated by the Pacific cupped oyster (Crassostrea gigas) followed by Spain with production dominated by blue mussel.  Turkish production consists mainly of trout, sea bream and sea bass.

Production by major commercial species groups
The major part of the increase in aquaculture production has been in marine salmon culture in northwest Europe, and to a lesser extent trout culture (throughout western Europe and Turkey), sea bass and sea bream cage culture (mainly Greece and Turkey), and mussel and clam cultivation (throughout western Europe), which however exhibits a downward trend since 1999.  In contrast, inland aquaculture of carp (mainly common and silver carp) has declined significantly throughout eastern and central Europe (EU 15 + EU 9 + others) due partly to political and economic changes in eastern Europe.  As in the case of production per country, no significant changes have been observed in production by major species since the last assessment.

Different types of aquaculture generate very different pressures on the environment, the main pressures being discharges of nutrients, antibiotics and fungicides.  The main environmental pressures are associated with intensive finfish production, mainly salmonids in marine, brackish and freshwaters, and sea bass and sea bream in the marine environment, sectors which have experienced the highest growth rate in recent years.  The pressures associated with the cultivation of bivalve molluscs, which include removal of plankton and local concentration and accumulation of organic matter and metabolites, are generally considered to be less severe than those from intensive finfish cultivation.  Pond aquaculture of carp in inland waters usually requires less intensive feeding, and in most cases a greater proportion of the nutrients discharged are assimilated locally.  Environmental pressure per unit production is likely to be less than for the more intensive salmonid production. Furthermore, this type of aquaculture has decreased in recent years.

Chemicals, particularly formalin and malachite green, are used in freshwater farms to control fungal and bacterial diseases.  In marine farms, antibiotics are used for disease control but the amounts used have been reduced drastically in recent years following the introduction of vaccines and improved husbandry practices.  In general, significant improvements in the efficiency of feed and nutrient utilisation as well as environmental management have served to partially mitigate the associated increase in environmental pressure.

Specific policy question: What is the environmental performance of aquaculture?

What is the environmental performance of aquaculture?

Marine aquaculture production relative to coastline length, 2005

Note: Marine and brackish water aquaculture production

Data source:

FAO FISHSTAT Plus and World Resources Institute

Downloads and more info

Production relative to coastline length

The environmental pressures exerted by aquaculture are not uniform.  The level of local impact will vary according to production scale and techniques as well as the hydrodynamics and chemical characteristics of the region. Of the EU 15 countries, Spain, France and the Netherlands, and of the EU 10 + Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey, have the greatest marine aquaculture production in relation to coastline length.

Aquaculture production intensity as measured per unit coastline length has reached an average of around 8 tonnes per km of coastline in EU 10 + EFTA countries compared with 2 tonnes per km in the EU 10 + Romania + Bulgaria + Balkan region.  The pressure is likely to continue to increase as the production of new species such as cod, halibut and turbot becomes more reliable.

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.
An alternative indicator could be based on the percentage coverage of key coastal habitat types by different types of aquaculture.

Contribution of nutrients from aquaculture to total coastal nutrients loads

Marine finfish aquaculture (mainly Atlantic salmon) is making a contribution to nutrient loads in coastal waters, particularly in the case of countries with relatively small total nutrient discharges to coastal waters. In general, the pressure from nutrients from the intensive cultivation of marine and brackish water could become significant in the context of total nutrient loadings to coastal environments. However the published data on total nutrient loadings to coastal waters remains poor in quality and inconsistent in coverage; the conclusions should therefore be treated with caution.

Indicator specification and metadata

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.

Units

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.

Targets

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

Methodology

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

No methodology references available.

Uncertainties

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.

Data sources

Generic metadata

Topics:

Fisheries Fisheries (Primary topic)

Coasts and seas Coasts and seas

Tags:
fisheries | soer2010 | csi | aquaculture | marine
DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 033
Geographic coverage:
Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Constança De Carvalho Belchior

Ownership

EEA Management Plan

2010 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100