European Aquaculture

Aquaculture is the farming of fish, shellfish, aquatic plants, and other aquatic organisms. It is the fastest growing food production sector in the world, now responsible for over half of all global seafood production. The European Union, despite being the world’s largest importer of fish, has experienced very little change in aquaculture production in recent years. However, many EU member states are increasingly encouraging the development of aquaculture, amid safety concerns about imported seafood, as a means of contributing to food security for a growing global population. 

Across the EU 1.25m tonnes of fish and shellfish are farmed each year, making it the world's 8th largest producer. The industry supports 85,000 jobs across 14,000 enterprises within the EU. Europeans consume an average of 23kg of seafood each year and nearly a quarter of this comes from aquaculture, demonstrating the contribution of the industry to health and nutrition as well as the economy.

Aquaculture sustainability

The aquaculture industry faces key sustainability challenges as it grows. These include eutrophication, disease, genetic mixing with wild fish stocks and risks to aquaculture sustainability caused by climate change.  Challenges emerge and evolve as the industry develops and matures, and those at the forefront of the solutions to these challenges are trialling and developing ways of minimising and mitigating the environmental impacts of the industry. 

Tackling these challenges involves a multi-disciplinary effort between industry, regulators and research organisations. They must address environmental challenges alongside socio-economic challenges and opportunities, against the backdrop of the increasingly important role of aquaculture in feeding a growing population.

Aquaculture has the potential to both enhance and undermine ecosystem services - the benefits that we, as people, gain from healthy ecosystems.

The Aquaculture Toolbox

In recognition of the need for a multi-stakeholder approach to aquaculture sustainability, the Aquaculture Toolbox was created to aid planners and license applicants in guiding and developing the industry and their operations. The Toolbox was developed by a multi-national, multi-disciplinary team to provide guidance and tools for the planning and licensing of aquaculture. Both planners and applicants can access guidance for each stage of the licensing process, from site selection to post-licensing compliance, and modelling tools are provided at to assist at key stages. 

For guidance on how to use the Aquaculture Toolbox, see the Licensing Process page or contact the developers of the Aquaculture Toolbox for assistance.