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EU Aquaculture Assistance Mechanism

The EU Aquaculture Assistance Mechanism supports the EU Member States, the EU aquaculture industry, and other relevant stakeholders in implementing the "Strategic guidelines for a more sustainable and competitive EU aquaculture"

The European Union (EU) Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) defines aquaculture as “the rearing or cultivation of aquatic organisms using techniques designed to increase the production of the organisms in question beyond the natural capacity of the environment, where the organisms remain the property of a natural or legal person throughout the rearing and culture stage, up to and including harvesting”.

Aquaculture is one of the fastest-growing food production sectors in the world and is an increasingly important contributor to global food supply and economic growth. In Europe, aquaculture plays a vital role in the socio-economic development of coastal and river areas and in preserving the maritime river and fishing culture. In 2020, the EU aquaculture sector reached 1.2 million tons in sales volume and EUR 3.9 billion in turnover value and directly employed around 57 thousand people working for approximately 14 thousand enterprises. These are primarily micro and small enterprises and tend to be family-owned (STECF 22-17).

67% of the aquaculture production in the EU is concentrated in four Member States, namely France, Greece, Spain, and Italy. More than half of the total aquaculture production volume focuses on shellfish, while marine and freshwater fish account for around 21% and 28% of the total volume. More specifically, the most cultivated species are mussels, trout, oysters, seabream, seabass, carp, and tuna (EU Aquaculture Infographic – Socioeconomic Development (2008 – 2020)). 

The legal basis of the EU aquaculture policy lies in the 2013 CFP, which aims to support the growth of the EU aquaculture sector while ensuring its economic, environmental, and social sustainability to provide a source of healthy food for EU citizens and contribute to food security. Specifically, Article 34, “Promoting sustainable aquaculture”, establishes an open coordination method between Member States based on the Commission’s Strategic Guidelines for a more sustainable and competitive EU aquaculture (first adopted in 2013 and revised in 2021). These guidelines constitute the central pillar of the strategic coordination of aquaculture policy in the Union and seek to build an EU aquaculture sector that is competitive and resilient; participates in the green transition; ensures social acceptance and consumer information; increases knowledge and innovation. Based on these, Member States have been asked to review their Multiannual National Strategic Plans (MNSPs) for aquaculture, where they must lay out their plans, objectives and appropriate measures for the promotion and development of sustainable aquaculture in their territory. Published MNSPs, including a summary in English, can be found under the section Country Information in the AAM website.

The implementation of the Strategic Guidelines and the MNSPs is being supported by funding made available in the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFAF), which runs from 2021 to 2027. Other EU funding programmes, such as Horizon Europe or BlueInvest II, also finance aquaculture-related research and projects.  

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