EU promoting fish farms in but eco-group remains wary

By Manina Danou

Fish from the open sea or from a farm? While that’s a question many shoppers might ask themselves, there is lingering prejudice against buying fish reared on farms, but the truth is that they are just as nutritious as those caught in the open sea, while opting to eat them also contributes to the fight against overfishing, which is a threat to future stocks in the Mediterranean.

In an effort to protect fish stocks, the European Union recently launched a campaign to promote aquaculture through the Common Fisheries Policy reform.

Experts say that 68 percent of the fish and seafood consumed in the EU is imported while just 10 percent comes from farms inside the bloc. The new reform is aimed at correcting this imbalance. According to EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki, who spoke at the Seafood Expo Global event in Brussels in early May, “the more the human population rises, the higher the demand for fish.”

“Without aquaculture there are simply not enough fish for consumption and future wild fish stocks are put at risk,” she said. “The fresh, local and healthy fish that are cultivated in the EU fully meet all of the requirements for safeguarding consumer health and they are delicious.”

But what about the negative effects of fish farming on the environment?

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Hellas, aquaculture alone is not enough to tackle overfishing, as the farming of certain species, such as salmon, uses fresh fish for food, contributing to the problem. The environmental organization also argues that EU directives lack the details needed for fish farming to be safe for the environment and not to affect other sectors of local economies, such as tourism. Instead, it is up to each individual member state to draw up legislation governing how and where fish farms operate.

The Greek Ministry of Agricultural Development, meanwhile, recently announced a new draft law setting a more comprehensive framework for aquaculture, though the text was not available at the time of publication.

* This article first appeared in the June 2014 issue of Gastronomos magazine.