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Inland aquaculture: a river of opportunities?

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Up to now, the EMODnet Human Activities portal has only included maps of marine aquaculture facilities located “at sea”, namely beyond the coast line. The scope of the mariculture dataset is currently being extended to shore-based farms rearing marine species and to inland aquaculture sites producing freshwater species (now available).

While marine aquaculture has developed strongly over the past decades, EU28 freshwater aquaculture (including salmon and trout farmed in freshwater) still represents 55% of the total volume of finfish produced by EU farms. Trout (rainbow & brown) ranks first of all species (marine and freshwater) in volume, followed by Atlantic salmon and common carp.

Freshwater aquaculture has been for centuries a vital source of proteins for European inland communities, who developed first semi-intensive pond aquaculture systems for carp farming and more recently tank and cage-based systems for rearing salmonids (trout and salmon).  Over the last 30 years, freshwater aquaculture has had to face different environmental and sanitary challenges that have limited its growth. Moreover, consumer demand for traditional freshwater fish (carp and other cyprinids) has declined in north-western Europe in favour of imported seafood (salmon, whitefish, shrimps). Despite these additional constraints, inland aquaculture still represents thousands of micro-enterprises in rural areas contributing to local employment and to valorising wet areas and small rivers.

Fresh Water Aquaculture Map

Recent improvements in water quality, technical innovation and new trends in EU consumer demand offer real opportunities for the further development of EU freshwater aquaculture.

Environmental opportunities:

Improvements in EU water quality and the development of sustainable aquaculture systems open new ways forward for setting up new facilities and/or expanding production at existing farms in areas where environment is/was a limiting factor.

Innovation opportunities:

Modern recirculating water systems allow now for the development of shore-based marine aquaculture or inland aquaculture breeding new species and high value species. Projects are emerging for eel (for smoking and export to Asia), sturgeon (caviar and meat) and for percids (pike-perch, perch).

Market opportunities:

EU consumers are increasingly concerned about the origin and quality of their food. Demand for local supply of healthy products, grown on responsible farms that protect the consumer and the environment, is a strong trend.¬† Freshwater aquaculture has undeniable strengths in this regard, as it represents freshness, health benefits, local availability, sustainable production systems (organic and others). Product innovation also concerns new presentations of freshwater fish, such as pre-packed products, portions and ready to cook products, barbeque (brochettes, loins) and processed products (smoked, prepared meals…). Polish trout breeders, for example, have succeeded in developing their domestic market by promoting the advantages of trout in terms both of health and the environment.

The new aquaculture dataset will encompass all types of aquaculture, showing the importance of this primary production activity in the EU and to follow in time the evolution in the number and type of inland farming activities.


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.

November 28th, 2017 | Written by

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