Europe and Central Asia
8 May 2020

The EU Farm to Fork strategy completely ignores seafood production

© BirdLife Europe and Central Asia / Lawrence Hookman
By Bruna Campos
The Farm to Fork strategy has the potential set an EU trajectory to remove destructive fishing and aquaculture practices so that we can achieve sustainable low impact fishing and farming. This is more important now than ever as the EU must have a green recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
But in order to do so, the Farm to Fork strategy must recognise the unsustainability of all current food systems. The UN’s IPBES Biodiversity Global Assessment Report of 2019 highlighted wild caught fisheries and aquaculture as one of the key drivers of biodiversity loss, yet the devastating environmental impacts of seafood production remain glaringly absent in the latest draft of the Farm to Fork strategy[1].

As it stands, the latest Farm to Fork draft fails to:

 

  • Set comprehensive measures and targets for a full transition of the European fishing industry to low-impact fisheries, by ending overfishing, banning destructive fishing practices and non-selective fishing gear, eliminating bycatch of sensitive species and ensuring that fisheries are fully monitored and controlled.
    • No EU citizen wants to eat fish caught at the expense of iconic species like dolphins, seabirds or turtles, or that is coming from an overfished or depleted fish population. Low-impact fisheries means that fishers reduce their impact on the marine environment by using less energy per ton of fish caught, and by preventing the destruction of essential marine habitats, the bycatch of undersized and unwanted fish, and the killing of sensitive species like cetaceans, seabirds or turtles.
       
  • Set comprehensive measures and targets for a full transition to an environmentally-responsible and low impact aquaculture production.
    • Systematically, adding the word ‘sustainable’ in front of aquaculture is not sufficient to ensure that current and future aquaculture practices develop in an environmentally-responsible way. At the very least, an aquaculture target is needed to address appropriately spatial planning, feed, escapees and nutrient issues, in addition to antimicrobial resistance, the only issue covered at the moment in the strategy.
       
  • Accurately state the fish consumption of EU citizens – currently stating that it is ‘insufficient’, with the underlying assumption that it should be increased.
    • In fact, Member States guidelines for weekly fish consumption are on average around 300g of fish per week and inhabitant for a healthy and balanced diet, which amounts to about 15.6 kg/inhabitant/year. European Commission statistics show that EU citizens eat on average 25.1 kg/inhabitant/year, which is 40% more than what Member States’ health guidelines promote. Given that the European Green Deal and subsequent strategies are meant to address the biodiversity and climate crises together, it would be counter-productive to promote fish consumption in the Farm to Fork Strategy without consideration for the harmful environmental and climate impacts of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors.
       
  • Have structured dialogues between the European Commission and civil society on fisheries and aquaculture topics.
    • The European Commission intends to use existing platforms to consult with stakeholders on the actions set out in the Farm to Fork Strategy. However, a platform to engage with civil society on fisheries and aquaculture does not exist. Although there are existing “Advisory Councils”, these are established and organized by stakeholders and are not a replacement for the dialogue that should occur between the European Commission and civil society in a structured format and organised by the Commission itself. In fact, this lack of structure is, in our opinion, one of the main reasons explaining the gaps related to seafood production in the current draft of the Farm to Fork Strategy. While consultations between the Commission and agriculture stakeholders were held regularly during the process of developing the Farm to Fork Strategy, only one consultation was organised to discuss fisheries and aquaculture issues. This consultation took place very late in the drafting stage.

 

Europe needs a Farm to Fork strategy that recognises that our current seafood production system is ecologically unsustainable and that fisheries and aquaculture are a major driver of marine biodiversity loss, waste production and habitat degradation, which in turn undermines the ocean’s resilience to climate change.

Earlier this year, more than 100 environmental organisations, led by BirdLife Europe, ClientEarth, Oceana, Seas at Risk, Surfrider Foundation Europe and WWF launched the “Blue Manifesto” – a roadmap to a healthy ocean in 2030. The rescue plan lays out targets which must be delivered by set dates in order to turn the tide on the ever-degraded and polluted ocean and coastlines. To be successful, change is needed on both land and sea. Together, we call for:

  • At least 30% of the ocean to be highly or fully protected by 2030
  • A shift to low-impact fishing
  • Securing a pollution-free ocean
  • Planning of human activities that support the restoration of thriving marine ecosystems

Read our joint NGO letter to Vice-President Timmermans addressing our concerns on the harmful impacts of seafood production in the EU Farm to Fork Strategy here.

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[1] The draft Strategy referred to in this letter are the draft dated 6 February and published in a Politico article ‘Commission’s Farm to Fork sets new targets and actions’ on 28 February 2020, as well as the draft published by Politico on 17 March 2020

 



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