Ecological aquaculture remains a minority activity in Europe

Organic aquaculture is still an emerging industry with a small volume of 52,000 metric tons, or 4 per cent of the total aquaculture products produced in the European Union in 2015, according to the latest report of the European Fisheries and Aquaculture Observatory The Aquaculture (EUMOFA).

However, the trend is increasing and in the period from 2012 to 2015 production increased 24 percent for salmon, doubled for rainbow trout and tripled for dorado and sea bass. Increases were also observed for molluscs such as mussel and oyster.

In an analysis of the current situation of organic aquaculture production experts EUMOFA, they have established that, in the case of organic salmon in the context of a positive development of demand, selling prices are good, so to cover the additional costs generated by this activity.

Regarding the ecological and sea bass, experts believe that although producers reach premium prices in the market, they are often less than the additional costs necessary to make the activity profitable in the context of limited market expansion.

In this analysis the best stop is rainbow trout, because in the same, it is considered that the producers reach premuim prices and extra margins, compared to the conventional activity, in a context of strong demand particularly in the smoking industry.

By country, the largest producer is Ireland with 22,000 tonnes, 42 per cent of the total produced by the country. Followed by Italy, with 8,500 tonnes, 16 per cent of its total aquaculture; France, with 4,200 tonnes, 8 per cent; Or Hungary, 4,308 MT, 7 percent.

Spain, is still far from its productive capacity with 1,353 tonnes, 0.5 of the total national aquaculture production. A separate mention is the case of Portugal which, with 1,300 tons, occupies 14 per cent of its aquaculture production.

Recommendations to improve the situation

In order to improve the current situation, experts believe that it is necessary to increase the volume produced in order to achieve an economy of scale that will reduce costs in order to be more competitive.

In addition, it is necessary to improve the credibility of eco-labels and not to base the promotion on negative aspects, but rather to describe it as an activity that fulfills sustainability and animal welfare.

There is also a need to improve information on EU regulations and funding opportunities, as well as to collect data and improve knowledge of the sector, other weaknesses that need to be further improved.

On the other hand, fish farmers perceive certifications as costly processes, especially in obtaining certification. They also need to improve the knowledge of retailers and consumers about organic products and the options to find new species on the market, such as corvina.