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Aquaculture & Fisheries

This page provides basic information on the combination between aquaculture and fisheries and will be further populated as more information becomes available.

The interaction between these two sectors is often considered challenging, as the presence of aquaculture facilities creates spatial restrictions to fishing. Fishing and more generally boating in proximity to an aquaculture farm can contribute to an increased risk of the spread of bacteria to wild fishes [1] and increased stress to the fish [2].

This partially explains why the combination of fisheries with aquaculture activities has rarely been observed in EU sea basins to date. Some initiatives (such as the SYMAPA project) have tried to combine both, based on the positive interactions between the use of certain passive fishing types (i.e., traps, hooks and lines) and aquaculture production (mainly algae and shellfish). The main challenge relates to ensuring the safe production and harvesting systems and securing aquaculture infrastructure (e.g., moorings) whatever the production is (fish, shellfish or algae). 



Aquaculture is defined 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” [3]. The EU aquaculture sector is slowly but steadily growing and is ranked the eleventh largest worldwide with a 0.9 % share of the volume of global output in 2021 [4]. At EU level, the activity is framed by the guidelines for sustainable and competitive EU aquaculture. It is a hugely diverse industry [5]: fish farming refers to the growth of fish in controlled aquatic enclosures, farming of shellfish is the cultivation and harvest of molluscs and crustaceans, and algaculture focuses on the farming of algae species. The EU Algae Initiative aims at making a wider use of that resource, that is not sufficiently developed [6].

Physical factors (water temperature and quality, currents, nutrient availability, etc.) have a direct effect on the growth of aquaculture species. Companies are therefore looking for the most suitable locations for their farms, also considering the associated costs of operations such as depth or distance from port that modify transport possibilities as well as construction, and maintenance costs [7]. This makes distant offshore farming more expensive and more exposed to extreme weather hazards. One of the main challenges is therefore the limited availability of inshore sheltered areas. 


Fishing has a long history in all European sea basins, and is of particular importance to coastal communities, both economically, socially, and as a food source. 

Capture fisheries have direct and indirect impacts on the marine environment and ecosystems notably through removal of biomass. However, thanks to innovations and regulations put in place over the last few decades within the EU, the state of fish stocks is progressively recovering[8], and conservation measures are expected to result in stock rebuilding.

The sector is regulated by the Common fisheries policy (CFP) [9], that aims at sustainably managing European fishing fleets and conserving fish stocks. Additionally, the Marine Action Plan aims at keeping fish stocks to sustainable levels and reducing the overall impact of fishing [10].

The sector is still facing major challenges and it has been in constant decline in volume for more than 20 years. This is largely due to the sensitivity of the business to the cost of fuel oil, reinforcing the need to decarbonise the sector as quickly as possible. 

For more information about EU blue economy sectors please visit the EU Blue Economy Observatory website. 

For more European statistics and data you can also visit the Eurostat website


Existing co-existence and multi-use initiatives