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EU Aquaculture Assistance Mechanism


Background information

Type of species farmed (Source: 2023, EUMOFA; 2022, STECF, Netherlands, personal com., January 16, 2023) 

Mussel (Mytilus spp.), Oyster (Ostrea edulis and Crassostrea gigas), African catfish (Clarias gariepinus), Claresse (Clarias Charipinus) European eel (Anguilla anguilla), turbot (Scophthalmus maximus), yellowtail kingfish (Seriola lalandi), Russian sturgeon (Acipenser Guldenstaedtii), Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser Baerii) and pike perch (Sander lucioperca).

Type of production method (Source: 2023, EUMOFA) 

Based on Eurostat, in 2021, 89% of Dutch production occurred in sea and brackish waters (almost entirely in marine waters) and 11% in freshwater. The following main production methods were used: 

  • 78% of production: on bottom in sea and brackish waters. 
  • 14% of production: in recirculation systems, almost entirely in freshwater. 
  • 8% of production: off bottom in sea and brackish waters. 

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

  • Production (2021): 40.526 Tn; 106.793 thousand €  
  • Consumption of fishery and aquaculture products  (2021): 21,08 Kg per capita 
  • % Variation in consumption 2021/2020: 2% 

Trends (past and future) (Source: MNSPA) 

  • Both technical and market innovations are indispensable for a well-functioning and sustainable aquaculture sector. In the period 2021-2027, EMFAF can be used for aquaculture innovation projects. The objective is that the use of the European funds, will l lead to a 3 % increase in the value of production in 2027.  
  • The search for new marine production areas will continue. Opportunities for aquaculture within wind farms are being explored. RAS technology innovations will be supported. Innovations that reduce waste water or increase circularity of the production process can facilitate the process of finding suitable land-based production sites.

Impact of aquaculture in the country’s economy, food market and labour market (Source: MNSPA) 

  • The aquaculture sector in the Netherlands is relatively small but very diverse. The sector consists broadly of two sub-sectors: the marine shellfish sector (mussels and oysters farming) and land-based fish farms. There are also some pilots for the cultivation of algae (including within windfarms)  
  • Fish products farmed in the Netherlands are currently marketed mainly in the food service segment in regional restaurants or in neighbouring countries such as Germany, Belgium, France or Italy. The products are often sold to wholesalers, but farms sometimes supply restaurants directly. Half of the fish consumption in the Netherlands consists of farmed fish (including ASC certified), which is largely imported from Asia.   
  • Opportunities to produce for the freezer segment seem to be limited due to the competition with imported products which are cheaper. Most products farmed in the Netherlands are too small in volume to supply the retail segment continuously.  
  • Shellfish sector: The mussel sector is the largest in this sector. Mussels and oysters grown in the Netherlands are currently marketed mainly in other EU Member States, with Belgium and France being the main markets. Mussels are marketed in retail and food service where both fresh mussels and, to a limited extent, canned mussels are sold. The Dutch mussel sector is vertically integrated and has an important market position within Europe. The oyster sector is much smaller. Oyster growers often depend on large mussel companies or processors and merchants for sales. Oysters are mainly marketed in food service (mainly in restaurants). 
  • Macroalgae (seaweed): Commercial seaweed has been grown on a small scale in the Netherlands since 2013. All of this production is used for food use. This is currently sold through food services (restaurants) and special channels (e.g., festivals). The next largest current market for seaweed is the market for thickeners (including alginates) for food use. Dutch companies import both the thickeners directly or import the seaweeds from which they are produced. This is partly due to unfamiliarity with the characteristics of seaweed grown in The Netherlands and because thickener producers need large volumes of seaweed that cannot be delivered by Dutch seaweed farms yet. In addition, there are several alternatives for the production of thickeners. Several other applications of Dutch seaweed are currently being explored.  
  • Microalgae: In the Netherlands, culture of microalgae is a relatively new activity. Little information is available on the scale of production and (potential) markets for these products. 

Challenges and opportunities (Source: MNSPA) 


  • The products grown in the Netherlands are mainly marketed in the surrounding countries. Current opportunities to find new markets outside the EU are limited. In particular, for the fish farming sector, most species farmed in the Netherlands have low distinctiveness and cheaper alternatives are often available. 
  • Sufficient funds and space for growth are limited.  
  • The shellfish sector has a better starting position, but a structural increase in production, is difficult to achieve, mainly due to spatial constraints.  
  • A barrier, especially for the fish farming sector, is that most producers do not have a large budget for promotion. Cooperation with financial partners or private equity could solve this. 
  • The Dutch market perspective for micro- and macroalgae differs from the other aquaculture sectors. A number of technical challenges in production and processing must be solved before production can be developed on a commercial scale. 
  • The Dutch fish farming sector is also not eligible for organic certification because closed RAS systems are not yet included in the EU Organic Regulation. 
  • The shellfish sector could develop a climate change adaptation plan to prepare for the possible consequences. 


  • The worldwide demand for high-quality seafood is growing which creates new markets. 
  • The opportunities for the Dutch aquaculture sector lie mainly in exclusive (regional) products grown sustainably for specific markets as the production costs in other countries are lower. 
  • Fish is a healthy protein source with a lower caloric intake than meat.  Fish can also be an alternative to reducing meat consumption for environmental reasons. 
  • There is a high specific knowledge in systems innovation, product systems, feed, breeding, etc., in Dutch aquaculture companies and research institutes. This knowledge can be exported abroad to countries with growing aquaculture sectors.   
  • Automation of the manual labour in seaweed farming and processing will lower the production costs.  
  • Investigating the potential application of seaweed for animal feed can increase the market for Dutch algae and seaweed products.  
  • The development of integrated multi-trophic aquacultures at sea.  
  • Using of offshore platforms for mussel and oyster production.  
  • Increasing aquaculture products sales in neighbouring countries. 
  • Potential new markets for freshwater fish are Central and Eastern Europe, where the demand for fish products is already growing.  
  • Cooperation with the processing sector and wholesalers is essential for successful marketing of (new) fish products.  
  • In the shellfish sector, the greatest potential is to find new outlets in existing markets. Mussels are currently mostly consumed by elder consumers. Attracting young consumers will offer opportunities.  
  • The Netherlands has a competitive advantage in several areas: recirculating aquaculture systems, nutrition and breeding and infrastructure. This combination enables the development of sustainable aquaculture and to choose for high-quality fish species. Innovations to make the RAS system more sustainable will remain possible under the new EU fund. 
  • The growing global consumer awareness of animal welfare is an opportunity for the Dutch aquaculture sector. If Dutch companies and knowledge institutes succeed in developing specific expertise on animal welfare, there are opportunities to market this knowledge within the EU and possibly beyond.

Employment and number of enterprises 

  • Shellfish: around 100 companies.
  • Fish farms: around 40 25 land-based fish farms.

MNSP to develop sustainable aquaculture

Published National Strategic Plans on Aquaculture: National Strategic Plan Aquaculture 2014-2020 and National Strategic Plan Aquaculture 2021-2030

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

Relevant Authorities

Applicable Procedures

National associations and networks

Relevant Websites

Contact Details

Name and surname: Ellen Rietsema

Position held and name of the organisation: Fisheries and aquaculture policy officer at the Dutch ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food quality. 

Email address:


Name and surname: Wilbert Schermer Voest 

Position held and name of the organisation: Fisheries and aquaculture policy officer at the Dutch ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food quality. 

Email address:  


Summary in English of the "Published National Strategic Plan on Aquaculture" for the Netherlands
(426.47 KB - PDF)