EU subsidy for fish farming barely produces more food

The EU policy of recent years to increase food production through fish farms and aquaculture has not yielded concrete results. A report from the European Court of Auditors shows that European aquaculture production has virtually come to a standstill. The available two billion EU subsidies have hardly been used.

Aquaculture is an important part of the EU blue economy strategy. According to Brussels, it contributes to food security and is promoted by the European Green Deal as a source of proteins with a lower carbon footprint.

Aquaculture includes the farming of fish, crustaceans, shellfish, algae and other aquatic organisms. Breeding takes place in marine, brackish or inland waters, as well as commercially in basins with water recirculation systems.

In 2020, total EU aquaculture production was 1.1 million tonnes, or less than 1 % of the global total. Spain, France, Greece and Italy are the main aquaculture producing EU countries. Together they account for approximately two-thirds of total EU production.

With ample financial support from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, EU countries were able to ensure the long-term viability of aquaculture and achieve economic benefits. However, the results are still pending and, according to the ECA Auditor, cannot yet be measured reliably.

“In recent years, the EU has cast its net wide across most of the aquaculture sector, as this sector forms an important part of its blue economy strategy. But unfortunately she is missing the net,” said Nikolaos Milionis, the ECA member who led the audit. 

Despite the €1.2 billion available for the 2014-2020 period, the auditors note that overall EU aquaculture production has come to a standstill. In Italy and France (the two largest aquaculture producers), production has even fallen. The number of aquaculture farms is decreasing and the number of workers in this sector has also decreased between 2014 and 2020.