Below are Struan's answers to questions from the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers for their Annual Report.
1. What raised your first interest in aquaculture?
10% of seafood consumption in the EU comes from aquaculture, 25% from EU catches and 65% from imports from third countries (both capture fisheries and aquaculture). Aquaculture can fill this gap to make us less reliant on imports and put less pressure on wild fisheries. This sector has huge growth potential and the EU is lagging behind. We have the world’s best aquaculture science, cutting-edge technology, the perfect climate and coastal conditions for fish farming and yet we have allowed countries like Vietnam, Chile and Bangladesh to overtake us. We must reclaim our global position and I have fought hard to ensure that aquaculture plays a central role in the newly reformed Common Fisheries Policy and has a fair share of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
Also, as the rapporteur on legislative report on the Common Organisation of the Markets in fisheries & Aquaculture Products (CMO), I have called on the Commission to create a new EU Eco-Label. This will enable all producers of fisheries and aquaculture products from inside and outside the EU to pay for a quality assessment that will enable them to display the European flag on their merchandise. Even companies in countries like Vietnam will be able to apply for this eco-label, but in doing so they will have to meet the exact same conditions as companies inside the EU, thus achieving the level-playing field that we have sought for so long. I hope the public will quickly come to recognize and seek out the EU eco-label as a symbol of best practice and sustainability.
2. How did the trilogue discussions on the reform of the CFP, the COM and the EMFF go?
As the rapporteur on the Common Market Organisation (CMO) report, I led the trilogue negotiations from the Parliament side. The Council and the Parliament were in agreement over a lot of the main issues. The biggest sticking point was the article on labeling. The Commission wanted to retain their proposed date of catch whereas the Parliament and the Council were against. In the end, we decided not to display either the date of catch or the date of landing, as we felt these dates could actually provide the consumer with misleading information. Overall, we now have a sound Regulation, which will benefit producer organisations and consumers. We ended up with many thousands of votes in Committee on the CFP Basic regulation and the CMO, but we achieved a remarkable reform, wresting control away from the micro-managers in Brussels and handing day-to-day management of fisheries back to the Member States. We also introduced a phased in ban on discards, so we achieved what many people said at the outset would be impossible! I am very pleased to have been part of this major reform process and to have ensured aquaculture maintained a central role throughout the five years of debate and negotiations.
3. How do you see the EMFF best contributing to the development of European aquaculture?
The provisions being applied to aquaculture through the EMFF will help develop a more competitive, environmentally sustainable sector, which delivers value for money and has a clear market focus. Investment in aquaculture must not be subsidy driven and the recent reforms will help prevent that. Money could be used for new aquaculture sites, investment in human capital, skills and innovation, help for start-ups and diversification.
4. What do you think that the multiannual plans will contribute?
Multiannual plans under the new CFP will now include the target of fishing at above maximum sustainable yield (MSY) and a deadline for achieving this target. They will also contain the landing obligation and safeguards where action is needed or specific technical measures. This has been a major source of inter-institutional disputes between the Parliament, the Commission and the Council, with several fisheries multi-annual plans blocked at First Reading by the Council based on legal arguments over “who does what” in our respective interpretations of the terms of the Lisbon Treaty. This, of course, is a source of huge frustration for the sector, who desperately require multi annual plans as management tools to provide stability for long-term investment decisions. To try to resolve this dispute I am currently leading a Task Force, composed of representatives from the three institutions, to tackle the issues of delegation of responsibility under co-decision. We have made significant progress, especially on the single stocks and will continue to work hard on dual-species and multi-species stocks before the end of the mandate. Multiannual plans will be one of the most important instruments in the new reformed CFP as they will set the measures on how to restore the fish stocks to sustainable levels and maintain them, ensuring long–term sustainable fishing and bringing stability to the fisheries sector.
5. What are your hopes for EU aquaculture?
There is huge growth potential for EU aquaculture, which can help spare overexploited marine resources. It can also boost employment in coastal and inland areas. Compared to other parts of the world such as Vietnam and South America, the EU aquaculture industry is stagnating due to increased red tape and a slow authorisation procedure. Many licenses take up to three years to grant which dissuades investors from investing. This increases start-up costs which are in turn, added to the production costs. EU aquaculture farmers cannot compete with low prices from third countries. There is also the problem of competing with other organisations or authorities for space. However, the OECD and the FAO both estimate that aquaculture will, by 2015, overtake supply from capture fisheries to account for more than half of the fish and seafood produced for human consumption. Aquaculture is therefore seen as an important factor in ensuring a sustainable global food supply and overcoming food insecurity. I hope that our reforms of the CFP will catapult EU fish farming back into the position of global leader.
6. We understand that you are not standing for the European Parliament anymore. Are you going to maintain an ‘aquaculture’ interest in the future?
I have spent the past 15 years as an MEP and during all of that time I served on the Fisheries Committee, spending 3 years as President and the past 5 years as Senior Vice-President. I have visited fish farms, processing factories, scientific laboratories, and research institutes around the world and I have lectured on aquaculture from Hanoi to Buenos Aires. I remember once a headline in a Chilean newspaper, which said I was “Chief of the EU Aquaculture Mafia come to Chile to steal their salmon secrets!” I think that was rather an exaggeration, but nevertheless I have always had a profound interest in aquaculture, based on the fact that the sector provides over 6,000 good jobs in my own political constituency of Scotland, where we produce some of the best farmed salmon in the world. I will, of course, continue to maintain my interest in and connection with the aquaculture industry.