The Commission is issuing new guidelines to improve understanding of how aquaculture can be carried out inside Natura 2000, the EU-wide network of protected natural areas. The guidelines explain how best to ensure that activities related to aquaculture are compatible with EU nature legislation and Natura 2000 provisions in particular. They emphasize the significance of the aquaculture sector for food production, and highlight the key role of the Natura 2000 network in delivering the objectives of EU Biodiversity policy. The guidelines focus on the implementation of the provisions on appropriate assessment under the Habitats Directive.
Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, described the document as 'a useful tool to increase understanding between economic operators, public authorities, site managers and nature conservation bodies. It will enable them to design sustainable aquaculture projects that meet their production objectives while respecting the ecological values of the Natura 2000 areas.'
Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner in charge of Fisheries and Maritime Policy said: 'Aquaculture plays an important role in the EU for access to food resources and there is a need to use its potential for contributing to sustainability, food security, growth and employment. As one of many users of our waters EU aquaculture needs to be developed in an ecologically sustainable way and this document should contribute to that aim.'
The guidelines – 'Guidance on Aquaculture and Natura 2000 - Sustainable aquaculture activities in the context of the Natura 2000 Network' – present the policy context of aquaculture development and biodiversity conservation in Europe. They review the potential impacts of the main aquaculture systems on nature and wildlife with special focus on the methods and tools to assess them in the light of the conservation objectives of the sites. The guidelines explain how these risks should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and how they can best be minimised or avoided altogether. A number of case studies are presented, with examples of good practice showing how sustainable aquaculture development can be compatible with nature protection or enhance it by providing suitable habitats for which many sites have been designated. The guidelines stress the benefits of strategic planning, whereby nature conservation requirements and aquaculture development needs are taken into consideration in an integrated manner at an early stage of the planning process. The document provides a step-by-step guide to the required assessment procedures with relevant examples and practical recommendations.
This is the fifth guidance document on application of EU nature legislation in the context of strategic EU sectors. Previously published guidelines concerned wind energy, non-energy mineral extraction industry, developments in ports and estuaries and inland waterway transport.
Aquaculture represents a growing contributor to the production of aquatic food worldwide, considering that most wild fish stocks are currently near or above sustainable exploitation limits. In the EU, aquaculture production is an important economic activity in many coastal and continental regions but has remained stable in recent years in sharp contrast with worldwide trends. The reform of the Common Fisheries Policy aims to develop the full potential of EU aquaculture in line with the Europe 2020 objectives: sustainability, food security, growth and employment.
Natura 2000 is a vast Europe-wide network of protected areas whose aim is to assure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats. It now covers almost 18 % of the EU's land surface and more than 217 000 km² of its seas. Natura 2000 is not a system of strict nature reserves where all human activities are excluded. Activities such as farming, aquaculture, transport, infrastructure development, tourism, forestry and leisure pursuits can be carried out inside the network as long as they are sustainable and in compliance with the conservation objectives of the areas. Natura 2000 is one of the main tools in the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy, which aims to reverse biodiversity loss and speed up the EU's transition towards a resource-efficient and green economy.