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EU Aquaculture Assistance Mechanism

Background information

Type of species farmed (Source: MNSPA; Belgium, personal com., January 17, 2023)

Flemish region: pike-perch (fingerlings), prawns and mussels. There is also limited commercial oyster farming, especially the flat oyster (Ostrea edulis) and the hollow oyster (Crassostrea gigas) in the coastal zone (Spuikom oostende).  

Wallonia: Salmonids (mainly trout, incl. hybrids and Thymallus thymallus), different cyprinidae (incl. Common carp, Gobio gobio, Phoxinus phoxinus) different percinidae (incl. common perch and pikeperch), decapods and one of the aquaculture companies is dedicated to sturgeon (for caviar production). 
 

Type of production method (Source: MNSPA)

Only limited freshwater production exists in Belgium. Trout farming in Wallonia use mainly artisanal methods of production, majority semi-intensive, mostly of salmonids in ponds fed by river water. Few productions in Wallonia and Flanders used RAS systems. Mussel farm via suspended rope culture.
 

Sector’s size (production and consumption) (Source: 2023, EUMOFA)

  • Production (2021): 223 Tn; 1.447 thousand € 
  • Consumption of fishery and aquaculture products (2021): 21,79 Kg per capita 
  • % Variation in consumption 2021/2020: -3% 
     

Trends (past and future) (Source: MNSPA)

There is potential for circular aquaculture in both Flanders and Wallonia regions, and integration with other activities offers important benefits in terms of both environmental, economic and social sustainability. Furthermore, developments in marine spatial planning and research and innovation also offer potential for marine aquaculture in the Belgian part of the North Sea.
 

Impact of aquaculture in the country’s economy, food market and labour market (2022, STECF)

The sector consists of 7 companies. It is mainly characterized by small-scale, extensive production units. Only a limited number of farms form an exception to this rule of thumb (2022, STECF)
 

Challenges and opportunities (Source: MNSPA)

Challenges:

  • Strong networks and communication channels are needed to reach out to interested producers and investors, as well as specific actions to create an incentive investment framework for the sector.
  • Aquaculture should continue to seek integration with other sectors and activities, contributing to the circular system while reducing production costs.
  • In addition to aquaculture as the main activity, there should be possibilities to engage in ancillary activities (tourism, angling, catering, education, etc.) that guarantee an income. Projects based on multiple use are strongly recommended as part of an integrated approach.
  • The development of offshore aquaculture requires the provision of quality hatchery equipment, the development of appropriate technology for rearing and harvesting in the harsh conditions of the North Sea and adequate landing sites in ports.
  • For small-scale aquaculture to continue in Wallonia, there is a need to encourage and train young people, increase profitability, increase the visibility of product quality (e.g. labelling), reduce dependency on external factors (soil and climate), reduce physical impact, ensure the availability of quality hatchery equipment and facilitate access to capital.

Opportunities:

  • In the face of stagnating volumes of fish from fisheries, aquaculture can meet the growing needs of the market.
  • European Union seeks to boost aquaculture production.
  • Proximity (short chain), traceability (labelling), cradle to cradle and environmental friendliness (incl. bio-labelling) are gaining importance among consumers.
  • Local products add value, which also encourages retailers to offer local products.
  • As the world's population grows and prosperity increases, people are consuming more protein and the demand for aquatic products is increasing.
  • Strong exporting countries, such as China, may export less farmed fish due to growing domestic demand. As a result, European consumers could become more dependent on local supply.
  • Existence of new declared aquaculture zones closer to the coast (shorter sailing distance). In addition, the most optimal sites for integrated aquaculture in Flanders were mapped in 2019 through the HaLaVla project.
  • Mariculture development can also provide land-based developments through the need for hatcheries and nurseries that provide local supplies of quality broodstock.
  • Presence of infrastructure in ports where mariculture conditions can be created in controlled environments.
  • New developments in RAS minimise dependence on water and energy and increase the potential of recirculation systems.
  • In aquaculture, the ability to control and monitor the entire life cycle should lead to greater operational reliability and product quality.
  • Interest from retailers to start their own production.
  • Opportunities for aquaculture production without the use of fishmeal.
  • Opportunity for the aquaculture sector to take advantage of the existing logistics structure of the fishing industry.
  • Production of aquaculture species new to Belgium (including algae).
  • Opportunities for participation or conversion of shipowners/fishermen and farmers to (marine) aquaculture.
  • Producers can look for added value and bet on sustainability, freshness and health of aquaculture products. The judicious use of resources, water, space and energy has both environmental and economic benefits.
  • The use of residual flows fits within the emerging circular economy, which has also been endorsed as a transition priority in the Flemish government's Vision 2050.
  • Aquaponics may gain momentum in urbanised Flanders.
  • Promising marine aquaculture projects (mussel, oyster and algae farming) offer prospects for combining with passive fisheries.
  • Aquaculture techniques can be deployed for regulatory and protective ecosystem services. By playing an ecosystem role, it can also contribute to the European Biodiversity Strategy.
  • Efficient use of space and increased production through multitrophic aquaculture.
  • There is a large processing sector that offers opportunities for primary aquaculture producers.
  • Digital tools can respond to many of the challenges faced by aquaculture producers (monitoring, automatic predator alert, stock management, online sales, etc.).
     

Employment and number of enterprises (Source: MNSPA)

This data is not collected in Belgium. As stipulated in Implementing Decision (EU) 2019/909, thresholds apply for the multi-annual Union programme in the framework of data collection and management in the fisheries and aquaculture sector. As regards social and economic data, the Member State does not have to collect them if the total production is less than 1% of the total Union volume and value (the total annual production in Belgium is less than 1,000 tonnes).

MNSP to develop sustainable aquaculture

Published National Strategic Plan on Aquaculture: Belgisch Strategisch Plan Aquacultuur_2021 - 2030_v1 (in Belgian)

Summary in English of the "Published National Strategic Plan on Aquaculture": Belgian Strategic Plan Aquaculture 2021-2030

Applicable Legislation

Aquaculture or mariculture facilities fall under the competence of the regional authorities of the area where the facility is located.

Applicable Procedures

Federal Government: Manage particular legislative aspects considering mariculture.

Wallonia Region (Relevant information also here):

  • The "Direction des Permis et autorisations" that acts as the central body for the control of permit applications with an aquaculture production of more than 500 kg per year. In other cases, the producer only has to register his production with the municipality.
  • Animal welfare: the "direction de la qualité et du bien être animal" that deals with this issue.
  • Manure legislation: it is the responsibility of the "Direction de l'agriculture".

Flanders region  

National associations and networks

Contact Details

For Wallonia

Name and surname: Rachel Sundar Raj
Position held and name of the organisation: Attaché, SPW ARNE, Département des Politiques européennes et des Accords internationaux, Direction des Programmes européens
Email address: rachel.sundarraj@spw.wallonie.be 
Telephone number: + 32 (0)81.649.448

For Flanders

Name and surname: Camille Daniëls 
Position held and name of the organisation: Policy advisor, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Flemish government
Email address: camille.daniels@lv.vlaanderen.be 

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Summary in English of the "Published National Strategic Plan on Aquaculture" for Belgium
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