The guidelines consider that 80 per cent of fish farmers are of a small scale. (Photo: Lionel Flageul, EC: www.ec.europa.eu)
EU Parliament's approval of guidelines is a formality: FAO
Friday, October 08, 2010, 15:40 (GMT + 9)
Approval of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) most recently drafted aquaculture guidelines by the European Union (EU) Parliament committee next January 2011 will be a “formality,” the organisation said.
A UN sub-committee of over 50 nations came up with the new certification guidelines, which are not binding. The UN claims this is the only global forum that has ever discussed the sector’s development.
The guidelines span everything from fish health to food safety and environmental and socio-economic issues. The guidelines were established through four years of talks with governments, producers, processors and traders.
Through the guidelines, consumers will be able to know whether they are buying shrimp that has been reared without damaging coastal mangrove areas, if the farmer has received a fair wage or if the shellfish is contaminated or not, among other issues.
Further, the guidelines consider that 80 per cent of fish farmers are small scale and that any expensive certification process should not exclude them.
The guidelines were developed to cover the “fastest growing food sector in the world,” FAO aquaculture expert Rohana Subasinghe said. UN figures claim global fish food aquaculture production reached 52.5 million tonnes in 2008.
“Certification of aquaculture products has proliferated over the years claiming all kinds of things. There was no criteria, no benchmarks or agreed principles,” he said.
“Aquaculture products are globally traded and it is important that we ensure responsible production and consumer satisfaction," he added.
The proposals will be looked at by the 27 member states within the EU Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries when it meets in January. Still, FAO spokesman Peter Lowrey said the guidelines will be made.
“We’re led to believe [the meeting] should be something of a formality, they’re obliged to make these changes,” he told FoodNavigator.com.
At the same time, an EU Commission spokesman said that because no Commission consultation document exists on the guidelines, “MEPs may issue an ‘opinion’ saying the guidelines are excellent, but we’d still be a long way away from legislation.”
Last July, EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki wrote a blog post that called for a “new legitimacy” for sustainable aquaculture within the EU due to its “significant growth and job-creation potential.”
There are concerns in the EU over issues like high antibiotic that would cause water pollution, fish-borne diseases jeopardising wild stocks via potential interbreeding with farmed fish and damage caused to tourist industries by extensive fish farms.
Damanaki responded by saying that 60 per cent of EU fish is imported. She noted the need to diversify species and production in light of dropping fish stocks.
“We welcome the adoption of the FAO technical guidelines…all future standards should follow them,” said World Wildlife Fund (WWF) spokesman David Burrows.
- Global guidelines for aquaculture certification proposed
By Natalia Real