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Why is the implementation of maritime spatial planning a necessity for marine aquaculture?

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The coexistence between economic activities in coastal areas in a context of growing space-demanding maritime activities such as shipping, coastal tourism and the protection of marine areas raises concern for more traditional activities, including aquaculture, if not accompanied by the implementation of Integrated Coastal Management Strategies and Maritime Spatial Planning.

The study carried out for the EU Commission in 2008 about the economic performance of the European aquaculture[1] identified difficulties to obtain licences and the expansion of diseases and parasites as some of the main weaknesses for the development of EU aquaculture, and in particular marine aquaculture.

Cumbersome administrative systems to obtain licenses, regardless of the country, are still a major impediment to the development of marine aquaculture and result to a large extent from conflicts between different uses of the coasts, especially in highly touristic areas. Back in 2008, the report carried out for DG MARE[2] on legal aspects of maritime spatial planning showed that this issue was to a large extent related to the lack of maritime spatial planning, either because of the lack of planning instrument in force (e.g. in France) or because of overlapping jurisdictions and the lack of a general overview of all activities being planned (e.g. in Greece).

Likewise, the fight against epidemics and parasites include the establishment of crisis management plans and containment measures, which in turn requires a precise knowledge of aquaculture farms locations. In addition to the enforcement of animal health surveillance schemes and the obligation of controls carried out by the authorities, the Council Directive 2006/88/EC[3] on animal health requirements for aquaculture requires Member States to keep and make publicly available up-to-date lists of authorised establishments for the aquaculture production. These official registers should include information on the type of aquaculture (e.g. sea cages), the species and more importantly ‘the geographical position of the farm defined by a suitable system of coordinates of all farm-sites (if possible, GIS coordinates)’.

Marine Aquaculture

Yet, the data collection carried out to gather the data for the mariculture datasets under the EMODNet project has shown that publicly available information on the geolocation of aquaculture sites remains fragmented and lacks the necessary precision to develop planning instruments (points rather than polygons showing the exact delimitations of farms). More detailed information sometimes exists locally, but it is not centralised and not always available for dissemination. In France, there is cadastre for shellfish farms, with exact coordinates (polygons), but only available for some regions (Britanny) and departments (Ille et Vilaine, Loire Atlantique, Charente maritime). In Germany, information is also available at Landers level, but considering the small number of farms, authorities are reluctant to provide the data for confidentiality issues.

Recognizing the need for an improved spatial planning of aquaculture activities, the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)[4] introduced a specific measure under its Article 51 – Increasing the potential of aquaculture sites, aiming to support the identification and mapping of the ‘most suitable areas for developing aquaculture’. This will hopefully contribute to improve spatial planning, at least in relevant areas for the development of marine aquaculture.

Indeed, the potential development of traditional, as well as innovative marine aquaculture (algaculture, new finfish species…) in the EU waters is far from being achieved, and it is, among the promising blue growth sectors,  one of the activities that most needs to be supported by sound spatial planning strategies.

[1] Etude des performances économiques et de la compétitivité de l’aquaculture de l’Union Européenne, Ernst & Young, AND-I, Eurofish, Indemar, 2008

[2] Legal aspects of maritime spatial planning, MRAG, 2008

[3] Council Directive 2006/88/EC of 24 October 2006, on animal health requirements for aquaculture animals and products thereof, and on the prevention and control of certain diseases in aquatic animals

[4] Reg. (EU) No 508/2014 of The European Parliament and the Council, of 15 May 2014 on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund

The information and views set out in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Commission. Neither the European Commission nor any person acting on the European Commission's behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information therein.

June 9th, 2016 | Written by

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