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Seafood in Europe — A food system approach for sustainability


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The report ‘Seafood in Europe; a food system approach for sustainability’ takes an in-depth look at the increasingly complex evolution of the global food system and what this means for Europe. With a focus on seafood, the report explores the knowledge base on food systems and assesses the implications of such a food system analysis for EU policy and knowledge development.
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ISSN 1977-8449
EEA Report No 25/2016
Seafood in Europe
A food system approach for sustainability
EEA Report No 25/2016
Seafood in Europe
A food system approach for sustainability
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institutions of the European Union. Neither the European Environment Agency nor any person or company acting on
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© European Environment Agency, 2016
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Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2016
ISBN 978-92-9213-818-9
ISSN 1977-8449
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Cover design: EEA
Cover photo: © Constança Belchior
Left photo: Adriaen van Utrecht — Fishmonger's Stall. Photo: © Hugo Maertens — Art in Flanders VZW,
Right photo: © Gülcin Karadeniz
Layout: EEA/Pia Schmidt
Seafood in Europe
Authors and acknowledgements .............................................................................................. 4
Executive summary .................................................................................................................... 5
1 Introduction ........................................................................................................................... 9
1.1 Food connects people, the planet and prosperity .............................................................. 9
1.2 About this report ................................................................................................................... 11
2 Sustainability in the food system ...................................................................................... 12
2.1 The global and European seafood landscape ...................................................................12
2.2 Taking a food system approach ..........................................................................................17
2.3 Exploring sustainability in the food system .......................................................................19
3 Interactions in the journey of fish to fork ........................................................................ 22
3.1 The influence of international trade on seafood production ..........................................22
3.2 Aquaculture feed connects fisheries, aquaculture and land ........................................... 25
3.3 A globalised seafood supply chain with emerging partnerships ....................................29
3.4 Market incentives and consumer choices for sustainability ............................................ 31
4 Transforming Europe's food system ................................................................................. 33
4.1 Building a shared understanding of the food system at the EU level ............................34
4.2 Improving the seafood knowledge base ............................................................................ 38
4.3 Implementing an ecosystem approach to Europe's seas ................................................40
5 Looking ahead — food for thought ................................................................................... 45
References ................................................................................................................................. 48
Seafood in Europe
Authors and acknowledgements
Authors and acknowledgements
Lead authors:
Constança Belchior (European Environment Agency
(EEA)) and Benjamin Boteler (European Topic Center on
Inland, Coastal and Marine Waters (ETC-ICM)/Ecologic
Henrice Jansen and Gerjan Piet (ETC-ICM/Wageningen
Marine Research), Mark Dickey-Collas (ETC-ICM/
International Council for the Exploration of the Sea),
Keighley McFarland and Lucy Olivia Smith (ETC-ICM/
Ecologic Institute); Cathy Maguire, Eva Gelabert
and Johnny Reker (EEA); IreneVidal (Environmental
The authors would like to thank the colleagues at EEA
whose critical comments and observations contributed
to the final version of the report. The guidance
of Ronan Uhel and Stéphane Isoard, and shorter
contributions from Mike Asquith, Luís Pinto and Vincent
Viaud, were particularly valuable.
The authors also wish to thank the many experts
providing input throughout the development of
the report, in particular: Ann Dom (Seas at Risk),
GriffinCarpenter (New Economic Foundation (NEF)),
Wijnand Boonstra (Stockholm Resilience Center),
Michèle Mesmain (Slow Food International), Stefanie
Schmidt (Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies
(IASS)), Catarina Grilo (Gulbenkian Foundation —
Oceans Initiative), Roger Martini (Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)),
Tobias Webb (Innovation Forum), HenkWesthoek
(Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL))
and the colleagues from the European Commission
Fabrizio Natale, Ernesto Jardim, Dario Dubolino, Xavier
Guillou, Friderike Oehler, AnnaKarasszon, Anna
Cheilari, Johanna Trieb and Tine Van-Criekinge.
Executive summary
Seafood in Europe
Executive summary
Towards sustainability in the food system
By 2050, the world's population is projected to grow to
9.6 billion and demand for food will increase accordingly.
The resulting rise in food production and consumption
will arguably originate from a position of vulnerability:
today, the global food system is responsible for 60% of
terrestrial biodiversity loss, around 24% of greenhouse
gas emissions, 33% of degraded soils, full exploitation
or overexploitation of around 90% of commercial fish
stocks, and overexploitation of 20% of the world's
aquifers. Worldwide, a number of striking effects on
people's health and well-being can also be observed,
associated with some modern diets that are rich in fat,
sugar, salt and meat. Nearly 800millionpeople are
hungry and over 2 billion suffer from micronutrient
deficiencies, which affect their growth and development.
On the other hand, almost 2 billion people are
overweight and over 600 million of those are obese.
The challenges raised by our food pose major questions
for our societies. How can we feed the world in an
equitable and nutritious way, while sustaining the
natural capacity of land and marine ecosystems to
provide food, among other equally important primary
services? And how can Europe adapt and transform its
food system to support such objectives?
This European Environment Agency report, Seafood in
Europe, is a first contribution to the collective endeavour
of rethinking Europe's food system for sustainability
goals, as recently articulated globally in the Sustainable
Development Goals (aimed at 'Transforming our
world') and in Europe with the implementation of the
7thEnvironment Action Programme (aimed at 'Living
well, within the limits of our planet'). The report's
intended readership includes policy actors, practitioners
and researchers who are thinking about sustainability in
food, and who are in a position to act strategically. It is
also aimed at professionals in the fields of food security
and marine environmental sustainability.
With a focus on seafood, the analysis builds on a food
system approach from which it explores the knowledge
base on food systems and on the seafood that the EU
produces, trades and consumes. It then further assesses
the implications of such a food system analysis for
EU policy and knowledge development, by identifying
three complementary pathways in the current EU policy
framework related to food, seafood and healthy seas,
and its knowlegde base, which can help support a more
functional system.
Sustainability in food requires a policy
framework that embraces a food system
approach, and that allows a shared
understanding of the food system to be built
The EU has developed, in an implicit way, a broad
policy framework for food — including policies related
to environmental protection, agriculture, fisheries
and aquaculture, research and innovation, trade
and development — which is now embedded in
long-term sustainability objectives (Figure ES.1). These
policies influence how activities and actors in the food
supply-chain interact with each other and use natural
resources from land and sea. However, this EU policy
framework is not currently implemented according to a
food system approach. Such an approach recognises the
food system as a complex, adaptive system, comprised
by multiple interacting actors with diverse interests and
Policies help shape the food system. They establish a
common framework for governance and action, define
incentives, and direct research and innovation. Adopting
a food system approach to EU policy would allow for
complexity to be better embraced, and policy coherence
and coordination to be strenghtened. It would also
provide opportunities to build a shared understanding of
the food system among policymakers and other actors
in Europe's food system, such as producers, businesses
in the food industry and civil society groups.
Adopting a food system approach requires a shift in
the thinking about the food system and its outcomes.
Initiatives at the EU level are already underway and have
the potential to support such a shift in thinking and
build a shared understanding of the food system among
food system actors. These include a first EU Research
and Innovation Agenda for Food and Nutrition Security
and cross-policy foresight studies by the European
Commission related to the implementation of several
Executive summary
6Seafood in Europe
of the EU policies related to food (such as agriculture,
fisheries, the bioeconomy and the sustainable
development goals). These initiatives could provide
an important stepping-stone to design governance
processes and research initiatives that could bring
together EU institutions, Member States, food system
actors, experts from a multidisciplinary background
and other stakeholders to build a deeper and shared
understanding of why and how food is produced,
obtained and consumed. The design of such governance
mechanisms could allow these stakeholders to open up
to a wider array of solutions.
Solutions for sustainability in the food system will also
require a deeper understanding of the interactions
between ecosystem functioning and the ways in which
food is produced. Mapping and assessing ecosystem
services is key to understanding how natural capital
is generated, and how people benefit from it. In
this respect, the EU has begun a process under the
Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 to apply a common
ecosystem services approach that can lead to a
common language at the EU level that will define and
assess interactions between ecosystems and people.
Although it is still early days for this process, especially
Figure ES.1 An illustration of relevant EU policies for food and sustainability until 2050
Action Programme
Natural capital
protected, valued,
and restored
(Biodiversity strategy)
Safeguard Europe’s
Water Resources
United Nations
Climate and Energy
Spatial Planning
on Soil
Research and innovation,
trade and development policies
Living well,
within the limits
of our planet
Source: EEA.
Executive summary
Seafood in Europe
for marine ecosystems, such a common language
across the EU can be instrumental in building a shared
understanding of the food system outcomes on
ecosystem health, and how best to manage them.
Finally, adopting a food system approach requires
a policy implementation process that departs
from the classical problem-solving and planning
paradigm. Instead it will increasingly need to build on
systems learning and experimentation via iterative,
adaptive and participatory processes, and embrace
human factors that influence decision-making and
behaviour more fully. A great wealth of information
is already available on how to complement policy
implementation with behavioural insights. Working
with human behaviour is especially important in the
context of food, since food is related to many other
interweaving aspects of our lives such as education
and culture.
There is a need to improve the knowledge
base related to seafood in order to better
understand interactions in Europe's food
system and beyond
Data and information flows related to food system
activities and their environmental and socio-economic
interactions and outcomes allow us to monitor change
and assess it against EU sustainability objectives,
namely by monitoring aspects related to food
security, ecosystem health and social well-being. This
information acts as feedback that can validate how
we think about the food system, or signal the need
to revise it. Additionally, this feedback from the food
system allows us to make sense of change and forms
the basis for action, such as policy interventions.
The assessment of the knowledge base that underpins
the production, trade, distribution and consumption
of seafood for the EU indicates that these different
activities are still mostly monitored in isolation, and
miss out important interactions on the journey of fish
to fork. Currently, assessments tend to focus on the
environmental impact of fisheries and aquaculture
on Europe's marine ecosystems, or the economic
performance of the sectors, both of which are critical
knowledge for ensuring the long-term availability of
seafood. However, information that allows for an
understanding of what is happening at sea — both in
Europe and from where Europe sources seafood — by
connecting it to what and who is driving the production
of seafood is scarcer.
In this context, although more than half (55 %) of the
seafood consumed by EU citizens comes from outside
EU borders, there is little information available beyond
market data that enables the outcomes of the EU's
need for seafood to be traced. International trade
allows for sourcing across the world but it does not
carry with it ecosystem signals, such as the state of fish
stocks, that reflect local conditions and could act as a
sustainable production boundary. Data that provide
a better place-based understanding of the outcomes
of the food system are limited. The contribution
of fisheries and aquaculture to outcomes such as
community integrity, food security and ecosystem
stewardship are not visible in highly aggregated
global, EU or national level statistics. These statistics
were not designed to capture local dynamics but they
may carry more weight when it comes to influencing
decision-making in policy. Other interactions remain
under-investigated, such as those in the aquaculture
production of marine fed-species. The production
of species such as salmon and shrimp have broader
marine and land interactions — such as dependencies
on wild fish stocks or land-based crops for the
production of aquaculture feed — but the current
information flows on seafood provides limited capacity
to understand such interactions.
An integrated assessment of the production and
consumption of seafood for Europe is therefore
currently hindered by a lack of information that
facilitates understanding of the means by which the
different activities of the supply-chain shape the
demand and supply of seafood and its outcomes over
local-to-global scales. The new types of knowledge
required for a switch to a sustainable food system do
not necessarily imply more data and information. The
wealth of existing data and information from EU policy
implementation processes — such as those from the
new Common Fisheries Policy, which deals with both
the production of fisheries and aquaculture and the
organisation of the common market for seafood —
could be further explored to better capture the multiple
interactions of the food system.
Implementing an ecosystem approach to
Europe's seas — a key principle in several EU
policies — is critical to securing the long-term
availability of seafood, but further efforts are
needed to support its operationalisation
The ecosystem approach to management — also
known as ecosystem based management (EBM) — is
a central principle in EU marine and maritime policy
for ensuring the sustainable use of Europe's seas
and the long term provision of ecosystem services,
including the provision of seafood. Essentially, EBM is
a policy-driven process that aims to strike a balance
between ecological and social 'wants and needs' for
the use of ecosystem services and natural resources.
Executive summary
8Seafood in Europe
The implementation of EBM in Europe and elsewhere,
however, has been slow.
A major barrier to EBM implementation is the
reconciliation of the often incompatible environmental,
social and economic objectives of different actors and
policies related to the use of marine ecosystems. Even
with a unifying policy such as the Common Fisheries
Policy (CFP), conflicting objectives and values, such
as those related to securing short-term social and
economic benefits from fisheries or optimising fisheries
for broader social and environmental benefits in the
long-term, hamper the effective implementation of core
EBM measures for fisheries. This is illustrated by the
difficulty faced in fishing at maximum sustainable yield
in Europe's seas and the influence of political processes
that go beyond the capacity of science to set this
boundary for sustainability in fisheries management.
Another key impediment to successful EBM is the
complex European marine governance system
currently in place. A plethora of governance forums,
including those stemming from the CFP, the Marine
Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and the recently
adopted Maritime Spatial Planning Directive (part of
the Integrated Maritime Policy), are discussing parts
of the problem and parts of the solutions concerning
the sustainable use and conservation of Europe's
seas. However, the different policies involved bring
different actors together in different processes that
do not necessarily encourage broader reflection and
joint action. As such, a broader strategic approach to
implementing EBM in Europe's seas is in order.
Finally, EBM is a learning and adaptive process that
can take time to deliver tangible effects in ecosystem
health. A resilient food system requires the stable
production of food in the long-term. As such, measures
to protect, restore and conserve the natural capital
that underpins the very existence of a food system are
essential for its sustainability. A key measure in the
EBM tool box for Europe's seas and the availability of
seafood is the development of an adequate network
of marine protected areas (MPAs). Implementing
coherent and representative MPA networks is a no-
regret option for the safeguarding of biodiversity and
the services that marine ecosystems provide, such
as seafood. The ecosystem approach introduced by
the MSFD and the CFP provides an opportunity to
employ a holistic approach to designing, managing and
evaluating MPA networks in Europe's seas. MPAs are
also essential tools for ensuring the long-term viability
of fisheries and the availability of resources on which
the whole food supply-chain depends, ending with the
505 million citizens of Europe who want to be able to
eat fish today and in the future.
Seafood in Europe
1 Introduction
(1) The SDGs that relate directly to food are SDG2, 'end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable
agriculture', and SDG14, 'conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development', but approaches
are being developed showing how food connects all of the SDGs; see
1.1 Food connects people, the planet
and prosperity
Having food to eat is a daily requirement for all of
the 7.2 billion people currently on the planet. It is
expected that by 2050 there will be at least 2 billion
more people to feed. Ensuring food is produced,
distributed and consumed in a way that is socially,
economically and environmentally sustainable is one
of the main challenges of this century (World Bank,
2008; FAO, 2009; UN, 2015).
The way we eat has contributed to the development of
a complex global food system, connected by diverse
networks of producers, business actors in the food
industry, governments and consumers. The evolution
of this highly interconnected system has brought both
intended and unintended consequences for the planet
and for people. Natural resources and ecosystems are
under pressure. Globally, the food system is responsible
for 60% of terrestrial biodiversity loss, around 24%
of greenhouse gas emissions, 33% of degraded soils,
full exploitation or overexploitation of around 90% of
commercial fish stocks, and overexploitation of 20% of
the world's aquifers (FAO,2016; UNEP, 2016). A number
of striking effects on people's health and well-being
worldwide can also be observed, associated with some
modern diets that are rich in fat, sugar, salt and meat.
Nearly 800 million people are hungry and over 2 billion
suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, which affect their
growth and development. On the other hand almost 2
billion people are overweight and over 600 million of
those are obese, with worldwide obesity having more
than doubled since 1980 (WHO, 2016).
Rethinking sustainability in food
The state of play in the global food landscape clearly
shows that today's food system is dysfunctional. In
addition, a variety of global megatrends — large-scale,
high-impact and often interdependent social,
economic, political, environmental or technological
changes — are unfolding within Europe and across
the world (EEA, 2015a). Such changes, related to
population growth, rising incomes, economic growth
patterns, loss of biodiversity and the intensification of
climate change, will alter future food production and
consumption patterns, and influence both societies
and the environment (GO-Science, 2011). Thus, a
transformation of the food system is increasingly
being called for to ensure a system that is resilient to
global change and capable of providing healthy and
sustainable food for current and future generations.
Food is now at the top of policy agendas worldwide,
through the recently adopted 2030 Agenda for
Sustainable Development (UN, 2015). A set of
17Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is intended
to stimulate action between now and 2030 to shift the
world onto a sustainable and resilient path. Two SDGs
relate directly to food, but essentially food connects
all of the goals(1). Consequently, it is considered
that, without eliminating hunger, achieving food
security and improving the health and nutrition of the
world's population, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable
Development cannot be implemented effectively (UNEP,
2016). Obtaining sufficient and nutritious food by 2050 is
a challenge that affects all countries, but it is one that will
unfold differently in each one of them. The world's main
food security challenge in the future seems to be to
secure regular access to adequate food for the majority,
while addressing the persistent food insecurity of a
fraction of the population (Maggio etal., 2015).
When we think about threats to the
environment, we tend to picture cars and
smokestacks, not dinner. But the truth is,
our need for food poses one of the biggest
dangers to the planet.
Richardson (2014)
10 Seafood in Europe
Box 1.1 The EU 2050 sustainability vision from its 7th Environment Action Programme
In 2050 we live well, within the planet's ecological
limits. Our prosperity and healthy environment
stem from an innovative, circular economy where
nothing is wasted and where natural resources are
managed sustainably, and biodiversity is protected,
valued and restored in ways that enhance our
society's resilience. Our low-carbon growth has
long been decoupled from resource use, setting the
pace for a safe and sustainable global society.
Food and the choices about what we eat are tied
to many interweaving aspects of life, including
cultural norms and values that influence individual
preferences, and to the economic, social and
political mechanisms governing when, where and
how food can be accessed. If food is increasingly
seen as an essential connecting thread between
people, prosperity and the planet (UNEP, 2016),
how to transform our food system in today's hyper
connected world is still far from evident. Solutions
for ensuring healthier food for a growing population,
while reducing its environmental impacts will require
a deeper understanding of the natural and human
interactions in the food system. This understanding
requires us to stop looking in isolation at what is
happening at the production, processing, distribution
and consumption steps of food. As such, a systems
analysis of the many factors governing food security
and its outcomes is key to guiding decisions for
sustainability in a strategic and holistic manner
(Ingram, 2011; UNEP, 2016).
Transforming Europe's food system
What is happening on the global food landscape
matters for Europe's food security and its societies'
broader well-being. Europe is embedded in a dynamic
global web of producers, processers and markets
that obtains and sells goods and services related to
food. In 2014, the European Union (EU) had an 18%
market share of global exports and a 14% share of
global imports of agricultural commodities such as
meat, dairy, cereals and drink products (Food Drink
Europe, 2016). When it comes to seafood, the EU is
the largest importer of seafood and fish products in
the world, with a market share of 20% of total global
imports between 2013 and 2015, and was responsible
for about 6% of total global exports in the same period
The time is ripe for rethinking the sustainability of
Europe's food system. The EU has framed an engaging
vision of the future until 2050, where we will be 'living
well within the limits of our planet' (Box 1.1). This
vision sets the context for exploring pathways for a
transition towards the sustainability of Europe's food
system, alongside the other systems of production and
consumption that meet its needs for mobility, housing
and energy (EEA, 2015b). The European Commission
(EC) is further discussing a 'European brand' for a
sustainable society, in which economic growth is
compatible with planetary boundaries and its benefits
are fairly distributed (EPSC, 2016). In the context of food,
the EU is also actively engaging with stakeholders to
develop a new EU food research area by 2020 in order to
future-proof Europe's food system to achieve food and
nutrition security for all, in a global context (EC, 2015a).
Nevertheless, the current landscape of EU policies
and initiatives related to food — such as those on
environmental protection, agriculture, fisheries and
aquaculture, research and innovation, trade and
development — is fragmented and thus not suited
to the complexity of the food system. To transform
Europe's food system and make it sustainable in the
21st century requires the knowledge base on its actors,
activities, relationships and outcomes for both people
and the planet to be strengthened and the implications
of this knowledge for policy and governance explored.
1.2 About this report
This report aims to contribute knowledge to the
collective endavour of rethinking Europe's food
system for sustainabillity. With a focus on seafood,
the analysis builds on a complexity framework —
afood system approach — from which it explores the
knowledge base on food systems and on the seafood
Seafood in Europe
that the EU produces, trades and eats. It then further
assesses the implications of such food system analysis
for EU policy and knowledge development. The
report's intended readership includes policy actors,
practitioners and researchers who are thinking about
sustainability in marine and land-based food, and who
are in a position to act strategically. It is also aimed at
professionals in the fields of food security and marine
environmental sustainability.
This report brings a sustainability perspective to the
food system, exploring the environmental, social,
economic and governance dimensions around food
and seafood in particular. It therefore departs from
assessing the environmental impact of fisheries and
aquaculture on Europe's marine ecosystems, which
is assessed elsewhere (EEA, 2015c). Moreover, the
report does not focus on natural resource use in the
food system and how to address its environmental
impacts, which have recently been assessed on a
global level (UNEP, 2016). A systems approach that
explores interactions and outcomes of the 'fish to
fork' activities in which Europe is embedded remains
under-investigated at EU level. This report aims to
address this gap.
A food system approach allows the activities and
actors in the food supply chain — from production
and manufacturing to supply, retail and consumption
— as well as the various social, economic and
environmental outcomes of these activities, to be
connected and examined (Ericksen, 2007; Ingram,
2011). Such system analysis further helps to
distinguish the relationships that shape production
and consumption patterns, which can support the
identification of leverage points for accelerating
the transformation of the food system towards
sustainability (Meadows, 1999; Abson et al., 2016).
This report is structured around three main chapters.
Chapter 2 sets the scene for the assessment. It
describes the sustainability challenges related to
food and to seafood in particular, both globally
and in Europe, and defines the food system. It then
explains the conceptual approach of the assessment.
Chapter3 takes us on a 'fish to fork' journey via a food
system approach, by exploring the relationships and
outcomes that are intrinsic to Europe's demand for
seafood. In doing so, it aims to illustrate the need for
a systems approach to understand the factors that are
governing the long-term availability, access and use
of seafood for the EU. Chapter 4 builds on systems
thinking to identify three complimentary pathways
for sustainability in Europe's food system. It does so
by considering opportunities that are available or
emerging in the current EU policy framework related
to food, seafood and healthy seas, and its knowledge
base. Finally, Chapter 5 looks ahead and provides food
for thought on aspects relevant for a transformation
towards sustainability in Europe and its food system.
Seafood in Europe
Sustainability in the food system
2 Sustainability in the food system
(2) The global and European statistics related to fish consumption and trade, by definition, include freshwater fish. Therefore, in this section, 'fish'
includes both freshwater and marine fish. 'Seafood' is used when referring to marine fish only.
(3) Based on own calculations from European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture (EUMOFA) data. Includes freshwater species.
2.1 The global and European seafood
The role of fish as a source of food, income and
livelihood (2)
The combination of population growth, urbanisation
and rising incomes is projected to increase global food
demand compared with current needs by an estimated
50% by 2030 and by 80–100% by 2050 (Maggio etal.,
2015). Although projections vary, the world needs to
close the gap between the amount of food available
today and the amount required in 2050. Part of this
new demand for food will be met with fish. Caught
or farmed fish is already an important source of food
and provides an essential contribution to human
health given its high protein content but also a wide
range of essential micronutrients, including various
vitamins, minerals, and polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty
acids. In 2013, fish accounted for about 17% of the
global population's intake of animal protein (11.7% in
developed countries and 20% in developing countries)
and 6.7% of all protein consumed (FAO, 2016).
World fish consumption has been on the rise in recent
decades, having almost doubled in the last 55 years
(from an average of 9.9kg per capita in 1960 to 19.7kg
in 2013) (FAO, 2016). More recently, this aggregated
value has been mostly influenced by fish consumption
in Asia, Africa and South America, where the per capita
fish consumption increased by 9%, 5% and 15%
respectively, between 2007 and 2011 (EUMOFA, 2015).
The total global fish production that was used for
direct human consumption grew by 20% (from 67 to
87%) between 1960 and 2014, supported by significant
enhancements in efficiency, lower costs, wider choice,
and safer and improved products (FAO, 2016). In 2014,
around 13% of global fish production was destined
for non-food use, 76% of which was transformed to
fishmeal and fish oil and used for a number of purposes
including for direct feed in aquaculture (FAO, 2016).
Seafood is also an important source of nutritious food
for the EU. The average apparent fish consumption
per capita in the EU is the second highest in the world
(at around 22kg/capita/year), and some individual EU
Member States have among the highest rates in the
world (Figure 2.1). Europeans favour wild fish. In 2014,
around 75% of fisheries and aquaculture products
consumed in the EU(3) came from marine capture
fisheries, which remains consistent with trends over the
last decade (EUMOFA, 2015).
In addition to providing a valuable supply of food,
fisheries and aquaculture provide income and support
livelihoods for many people around the world. An
estimated 56.6 million people were engaged in capture
fisheries and aquaculture in 2014, the vast majority
(87%) being in Asia (FAO, 2016). The small-scale
fisheries sector is estimated to employ around 90% of
the world's fishers, producing almost half of the world's
fish and supplying most of the fish consumed in the
developing world (FAO, 2016). Since 1990, the number
of people employed in capture fisheries has decreased
by 16% (from 83% in 1990 to 67% in 2014), while at
the same time employment in aquaculture increased
by 16% (from 17 to 33%) (FAO, 2016).
In the EU, fishing provided about 129000 jobs in
2014 (STECF, 2015) while aquaculture accounted for
about 80000 jobs in 2012 (STECF, 2014a). Producing
and processing fish as food in the EU is still largely
dependent on small and medium sized businesses;
most of the EU fishing fleet is considered small-scale
(74 % of active vessels in 2013); the majority of
aquaculture enterprises employ fewer than10people
(90 % in 2012 and with significant part-time
employment) and fish processing enterprises fewer
than 50 (85 % in 2012) (STECF, 2014a, b and 2015). In
several EU regions the fishing sector plays a crucial
role for employment and economic activity — in some
European coastal communities, as many as half the
local jobs are in the fishing sector (Natale etal., 2013).
Sustainability in the food system
Seafood in Europe
Note: The FAO item 'sh, seafood', which also includes freshwater sh, was used to create this gure.
Source: FAO, 2016, FAO Food Balance Sheets: Food Supply Quantity.
Figure 2.1 The apparent consumption of fish in the EU compared with the rest of the world (food supply
quantity as kg/capita/year), 2011
020406080 100 120 140 160
Czech Republic
United Kingdom
EU-28 average
Republic of Korea
China, Macao SAR
Antigua and Barbuda
China, Hong Kong SAR
0510 15 20 25 30
Central America
South America
Northern America
EU-28 average
Sustainability in the food system
14 Seafood in Europe
Figure 2.2 World capture fisheries and aquaculture production
Source: FAO, 2016.
1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2014
Aquaculture production
Capture production
1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2014
Population (billions)
and food supply (kg/capita)
Fish utilization
(million tonnes)
Food supply
Non-food uses
| 3 |
(4) Freshwater aquaculture is also seen to have an increasing role in food security, but its analysis is beyond the scope of this report.
Seafood is also the most globally traded of all
agricultural and food commodities; around 37%
of all fisheries and aquaculture production enter
international markets, with developing countries
representing a growing portion of this trade
(FAO,2016). The EU plays an important role in this
global trade dynamic. It is the largest importer of
seafood and fish products in the world, with a market
share of 20% of total global imports between 2013
and 2015, and was responsible for about 6% of
total global exports in the same period (FAO, 2016).
Whereas the EU is a net exporter of meat, especially
processed products, it is a net importer of fishery
and aquaculture products (EUMOFA, 2015). The EU's
self-sufficiency in fish and aquaculture products —
that is, the capacity of the EU to meet the demand
for fish from its own waters — has been around 45%
since 2008 (EUMOFA, 2015).
Trends in the production of fish
Since the 1990s, the increase in fish supply has derived
from aquaculture (4) (inland and marine), which
increased from 7% of global fish supply in 1974 to
44% in 2014 (FAO, 2016) (Figure 2.2). The year 2014
also marks an important milestone for the world's
food supply. For the first time ever, aquaculture
provided more fish for human consumption than
capture fisheries. China has played a major role in
achieving such shift in food supply and currently
represents over 60 % of world aquaculture production
(FAO, 2016). In contrast, the production of EU
aquaculture has been decreasing significantly over
time in terms of both volume and value (STECF, 2014a).
By 2030 it has been projected that over 60 % of fish for
human consumption will be supplied by aquaculture
(World Bank, 2013). However, it is foreseen that
productivity gains in aquaculture will be affected
by the availability of and accessibility to land and
marine spaces, financial resources, improvements in
technology and accessibility to feed (OECD/FAO, 2015).
Global capture fisheries reached their peak production
of 86.4 million tonnes in 1996 and have generally
stabilised since then (Figure 2.2). Today, most fish
stocks are being used at or above their sustainable
levels (see Figure 2.3). Global numbers since 1974
depict an increasing trend towards overfishing (FAO,
2016). In 2013, around 89% of the world's fisheries
were either fully fished (58%) or overfished (31%),
leaving only around 10.5% underfished (FAO, 2016).
Sustainability in the food system
Seafood in Europe
Figure 2.3 Global trends in the state of world marine fish stocks
Note: Dark shading = within biologically sustainable levels; light shading = at biologically unsustainable levels.
The light line divides the stocks within biologically sustainable levels into two subcategories: fully shed (above the line) and undershed
(below the line).
Source: FAO, 2016.
At biologically unsustainable levels Within biologically sustainable levels
1974 1979 1984 1989 1994 1999 2004 2009 2013
Fully fished
(Scomber japonicus) stocks are fully fished in the
Eastern Pacific and overfished in the Northwest
Pacific. Skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis) stocks
are either fully fished or underfished.
The total catch of tuna and tuna-like species was
about 7.4million tonnes (9percent of the global
catch) in 2013. The principal market tuna
species– albacore, bigeye, bluefin (three species),
skipjack and yellowfin– contributed 5.1million
tonnes in 2013, an increase of half a million
tonnes over the two years. About 70percent of
these catches were from the Pacific. Skipjack was
the most productive principal market tuna,
contributing about 66percent to the 2013 catch of
principal tunas, followed by yellowfin and bigeye
(about 26and 10percent, respectively).
Among the seven principal tuna species,
41percent of the stocks were estimated as fished
at biologically unsustainable levels, while
59percent were fished within biologically
sustainable levels (fully fished or underfished) in
2013. The landings of skipjack tuna have
continued to increase over time, reaching
3.0million tonnes in 2013. Only for very few
stocks of the principal tuna species is their status
unknown or very poorly known. Market demand
for tuna is still high, and the significant
overcapacity of tuna fishing fleets remains. There
is a need for effective management to restore the
over fished s to cks.
World marine fisheries have undergone
significant changes since the 1950s. Accordingly,
their fishing levels and landings have also varied.
The temporal pattern of landings differs from
area to area depending on the level of urban and
economic development and changes that
countries in the surrounding area have
experienced. In general, area catches can be
divided into three groups: (i) oscillating around a
globally stable value; (ii) overall decline following
historical peaks; and (iii) continuously increasing
trend since 1950.
The first group comprises the Eastern Central
Atlantic, Northeast Pacific, Eastern Central
Pacific, Southwest Atlantic, Southeast Pacific,
and Northwest Pacific. These areas provided
about 47percent of the world’s total marine catch
in 2013. Several of them include upwelling
regions characterized by high natural variability.
About 70percent of fish stocks in this group are
fished within biologically sustainable levels.
The second group contributed 21percent of the
global marine catch in 2013, and includes the
Continues on page 42 »
Notes: Dark shading = within biologically sustainable levels; light shading = at biologically unsustainable levels. The light line divides
the stocks within biologically sustainable levels into two subcategories: fully fished (above the line) and underfished (below the line).
| 39 |
In Europe's seas, overfishing levels (defined as fishing
above maximum sustainable yield) remain high overall:
50% in the EU's north-east Atlantic Ocean and Baltic
waters, and over 90% in the Mediterranean and Black
Seas in 2014 (STECF, 2016a). Many stocks have been
recovering since 2003, largely as a result of better
management and significant progress towards fishing
at maximum sustainable yield in the EU's north-east
Atlantic Ocean and Baltic waters (Cardinale etal., 2013;
STECF, 2016a) (see Figure 2.4).
Sustainability in the food system
16 Seafood in Europe
The broader horizon for seafood provision and access
The state of coastal and marine ecosystems is of concern
globally. Despite this, increasing, multiple uses of the
global ocean continue to create further pressure on
already vulnerable ecosystems (EEA, 2015c; UN, 2016).
Economic ambitions for new or increased use of
marine spaces (e.g. offshore wind farms, mining and
biotechnology) are growing, and oceans are often looked
at as a means to help meet growing global demand, not
just for food, but also for energy, raw materials and,
ultimately, income and jobs (OECD, 2016). In the EU, this
is demonstrated by the Blue Growth strategy, which is
the long-term strategy to support sustainable growth in
the marine and maritime sectors (EC, 2012). This growing
interest in the oceans, both globally and in the EU, is
likely to bring further constraints on fish production
by increasing competition for the same areas and, in
some cases, resources. It will be necessary to coordinate
various activities taking place in a particular region, to
recognise their cumulative impacts and to harmonise
sustainability goals and legal frameworks. This means
increased international ocean governance will be
required for coordination across sectors, and ensuring
sustainability goals as well as social and economic
objectives are pursued and achieved (FAO, 2016).
Climate change is bringing further uncertainty to
the supply of seafood by exacerbating impacts in
the marine environment, namely through warming
Figure 2.4 Trends in the state of European fish stocks in the north-east Atlantic Ocean and Baltic waters
Note: The gure shows number of assessed stocks in the north-east Atlantic Ocean, North Sea and Baltic Sea in EU waters and contiguous
shared stocks, showing numbers of stocks shed sustainably (current shing mortality is at or below maximum sustainable yield (MSY)
or overshed (current shing mortality is above MSY).
Source: Based on STECF, 2016b.
2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Number of stocks
Fished sustainably Overfished
and acidifying waters. Warming waters are causing
marine species to move to colder, more northerly
regions. Many of these have commercial value and
are targeted by fisheries (EEA, 2015c). Recognising
the growing importance of climate change for specific
challenges, the United Nations' Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has determined that
food security and the world's oceans are of particular
importance and will be giving these areas special
attention over the coming years. The IPCC has found
that oceans require a more explicit focus than in the
past, and so governments and policymakers need to
better understand the consequences of climate change
on marine ecosystems (CarbonBrief, 2016).
Finally, the increasing interconnectedness and
interdependency of countries through international
trade will continue to be key in shaping the patterns
of production, distribution and consumption of
seafood. The unbalanced global distribution of fisheries
and aquaculture production causes seafood to be
a highly traded commodity and thus influenced by
market dynamics. In addition, global demographic
and socio-economic trends such as a growing and
increasingly affluent population and rising urbanisation,
are shifting consumption and production patterns
(GO-Science, 2011; EEA, 2015a). Already seafood
consumption is on the rise in developing counties,
especially in Asia, which poses new questions and
potential challenges for the global provision and access
to seafood (FAO, 2016).
Sustainability in the food system
Seafood in Europe
Box 2.1 Definition of food security
One of the most widely accepted definitions of food security is the conditions whereby 'all people, at all times, have physical,
social and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an
active and healthy life' (UNEP, 2016; after the definition of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) — FAO, 2009).
2.2 Taking a food system approach
The increased understanding of the complex nature of
our patterns of finding, processing and eating food has
called for the examination of food from a much broader
and integrated perspective, based on a food system
approach (Ericksen, 2007; Ingram, 2011; UNEP, 2016).
A food system can be defined as 'all the elements
(environment, people, inputs, processes, infrastructures,
institutions etc.) and activities that relate to the
production, processing, distribution, preparation
and consumption of food, and the outputs of these
activities, including socio-economic and environmental
outcomes' (HPLE, 2014). The food system is thus defined
by both the human activities that link the production
to the consumption of food (i.e. along the length of the
food supply chain) and the outcomes of these activities.
Food system outcomes
Food security is a core purpose of the food system (see
Box 2.1 for a definition) but it has long been considered
almost exclusively with respect to hunger, malnutrition
and humanitarian questions (Maggio etal., 2015). This
association has generated a conceptual divide between
undernourished and nourished people, hiding the
interplay of the problems affecting both. Food security
is now increasingly seen from the perspective of
access to food and of its nutritional value, whichmoves
away from the previous paradigm of focusing on the
production of food (Ericksen, 2007; Gustafson etal.,
The activities involved in the food system affect a
number of outcomes beyond food security, relating to
ecosystem health and social well-being (see Figure2.5).
These food system outcomes all have important
environmental and socio-economic feedback dynamics
that influence how the food system is operating
(Ingram, 2011; Maggio etal., 2015; UNEP, 2016).
Food system actors and activities
The food system is made of activities across the
food supply-chain, from producing to processing,
distributing and consuming food. Food system actors
Figure 2.5 Food system outcomes
Stability in:
Nutritional value
Social value
Food safety
Source: EEA based on Ingram, 2011 and UNEP, 2016.
represent the largest group of natural resource
managers in the world, and as such they are critical
in both creating the problems and implementing
solutions to them (UNEP, 2016). In addition to the
actors that are directly involved in food chain activities,
governments and civil society are also part of the food
system as they set the wider policy and societal context
for food chain activities. Acknowledging the roles of
the actors in the food system is an important factor in
identifying opportunities and pathways for enhanced
food security, ecosystem health and social well-being.
The activities and actors involved in the food system
can have different arrangements. Current food systems
vary across the globe, from modern food systems in
industrialised regions to more traditional food systems
Sustainability in the food system
18 Seafood in Europe
Figure 2.6 Main configurations of the actors and activities of the food system
Source: EEA based on UNEP, 2016.
in rural areas in developing countries (Figure 2.6).
While Europe's food system mostly has a modern food
chain there is also diversity, with different value chains
coexisting that pursue different objectives at different
scales but with multiple interactions and feedback
loops. The differences between them influence the
pathways to a sustainable food system and the logic
of interventions, as the characteristics of the system
and the drivers of change can differ. However, the
main model of a modern food supply-chain sets the
landscape and influences much of the policy discussion
around sustainability in Europe's food system.
Sustainability in the food system
Seafood in Europe
Figure 2.7 An illustration of the complexity of the global food system and its multiple interactions
Source: shiftN.
2.3 Exploring sustainability in the food
The journey of food from where it is produced until
it reaches our forks can touch upon many realms,
from the environment and politics to demographics
and the economy. Actors in the food system are
diverse and involve the private and public sphere, and
their activities take place at different geographical
scales. Figure 2.7 illustrates the complexity of today's
food system, by pointing to the multiple two-way
interactions between food-system activities and their
outcomes, and the range of external drivers affecting
the system. This illustration also shows that inevitably,
there are many ways to look at food system problems
and many potential solutions.
Whether one considers the food system to be
successful, depends on the desired outcomes. From
the consumer perspective, the primary function of
the food system may be to supply food of the desired
type, quantity, quality and price. From the perspective
of the farmer or food processor, the food system's
main function may be as a source of employment
and income. For rural and coastal communities,
the system may play a key role in social cohesion,
land and marine space use and traditions. For an
environmental manager, the food system might be
seen as a threat to ecosystem health whose pressures
on natural resources need to be minimised. It is vital to
attempt to articulate what a sustainable food system
is to understand where and how to act to change its
A sustainable food system has been defined as a
system that delivers food security and nutrition
for all in such a way that the economic, social and
environmental bases to generate food security and
nutrition for future generations are not compromised
(HLPE, 2014).
The EU and its Member States have articulated a
sustainability vision 'to live well within the limits of our
planet' by 2050 and to do so by transforming into a
green economy, which addresses the multidimensional
challenges of resource efficiency, ecosystem resilience,
Sustainability in the food system
20 Seafood in Europe
Box 2.2 Sustainability dimensions of the green economy
The concept of a green economy is seen by the EU and other international organisations as a strategic approach to the
systemic challenges of global environmental degradation, natural resource security, employment and competitiveness
(EEA, 2015b). Europe's 7th Environment Action Programme aims to stimulate the transition to a green economy and strives
towards an absolute decoupling of economic growth and environmental degradation (EC, 2013a). The green economy
approach emphasises economic development that is resource efficient, within environmental limits and equitable
across society. It requires economic, environmental and social goals to be pursued simultaneously. This is a long-term,
multidimensional and fundamental process of change that will necessitate profound changes in dominant institutions,
practices, technologies, policies, lifestyles and thinking.
Figure 2.8 Conceptualising Europe's food system from a sustainability perspective
human well-being, equity and good governance
(Box2.2). Such vision and strategic direction for the
EU's sustainable development entails change in current
ways of producing and consuming products and
services. In relation to the food system, transforming it
to optimise the outcomes of food security, ecosystem
health and social well-being for sustainability involves
changing the way activities are undertaken (Ingram,
2011). Changing the activities in the food supply-chain
entails examining values, motivations and methods
across food system activities, from the production of
food to its consumption, in order to identify options
that support the transformation to a green economy.
Figure 2.8 provides a conceptual framework through
which this report will explore sustainability in
Europe's food system and its demand for seafood,
and pathways for systemic change. Based on the EU's
2050 vision for sustainability and the green economy
dimensions, the proposed framework identifies key
Source: EEA.
Sustainability in the food system
Seafood in Europe
areas that can influence systemic change in the food
system i.e. that can affect the food system activities
and actors, their interactions and ultimately outcomes
in terms of food security, social well-being and
ecosystem health. The four areas are 'Knowledge and
innovation', 'Markets and trade', 'Actors and society',
and 'Governance and investments'. There are porous
boundaries between these different areas for inducing
systemic change and between the ways in which they
influence the activities and outcomes of the food
system. Hence, the proposed framework should be
seen as a compass that steered and informed the
analysis in Chapters 3 and 4 rather than a linear
cause-effect blueprint.
Seafood in Europe
Interactions in the journey of fish to fork
3 Interactions in the journey of fish to fork
This chapter aims to show that long-term seafood
security for the EU requires a fuller understanding of
different factors underpinning seafood production,
distribution and consumption. Its objective is not
to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the food
system. Instead, it examines the relationships that
make seafood available to European citizens today
and which are important for ensuring future access to
and availability of this healthy source of food in a way
that matches Europe's vision of a sustainable society.
Since the EU is a net importer of seafood, the analysis
brings particular focus to interactions between
the EU and the rest of the world, and the multiple
interactions in the global food system that enable the
journey of fish to fork. The assessment also explores
the influence of EU policies and initiatives related
to seafood in bringing greater sustainability to its
production and consumption patterns.
The sustainability aspects examined include
(1)the influence of international trade in seafood
production, in particular how it hides local ecosystem
constraints and its unintended consequences for illicit
fishing; (2) aquaculture feed as a key link between
fisheries, aquaculture and land ecosystems; (3) the
sustainability challenges and opportunities posed
by a globalised seafood supply chain; and (4) the
role of market incentives and consumer choices for
sustainability in seafood.
3.1 The influence of international trade
on seafood production
International trade hides local ecosystem constraints
for seafood production
A large proportion of seafood is consumed far from
where it was produced thanks to today's globalised
economies and their sophisticated networks of
trade relationships and complex supply chains.
Global markets and international trade are essential
components of today's food system and in particular
in the supply of the world's major seafood markets
such as the EU, Japan and the United States, which are
largely dependent on seafood sources far beyond their
domestic waters (Swartz etal., 2010). The EU imported
around 55% of its seafood in 2013 from all continents
of the world (see Figure 3.1).
The role of international markets and trade in
influencing the social, environmental and economic
outcomes of seafood production and consumption
is increasingly being recognised (Asche etal., 2015;
Crona etal., 2016). Technological developments,
such as in information technology and the transport
systems that underpin today's global market for
seafood, have made it possible to connect consumption
and production systems worldwide. However, the
increasing complexity of markets for seafood has led
to significant information and knowledge gaps about
these markets. For example, the flow of fish from
where it is caught or produced to where it is consumed
is still not well understood (Watson etal., 2015). Poor
traceability within current global seafood supply chains
has implications for ethical and sustainable production
practices, as local ecologically and socially relevant
feedbacks are mostly missing in the present system
and cannot be inferred from trade data and economic
indicators such as national supply balance (Asche etal.,
2015; Béné etal., 2016).
International trade enables the development of
different exploitation patterns to meet the ever-
growing demand for seafood, namely through
substitution or the sequential exploitation of
resources (Deutsch etal., 2011; Eriksson etal., 2015).
Today, seafood can be harnessed from different
fish stocks, species and ecosystems so that global
consumers can meet their demand for preferences on
a regular basis, while generally being oblivious to local
environmental or social constraints (Crona etal., 2015,
2016). These dynamics of global trade are particularly
harmful for fisheries, whose productivity is greatly
influenced by the natural capacity of fish stocks to
replenish themselves and the capability of ecosystems
to withstand fishing pressure (and other human
pressures) and remain in a healthy state.
Cod, one of the most consumed fish species in the
EU, is one species for which the role of market and
trade dynamics has been investigated. Crona at al.
(2015) investigated how weak signals about the state
of local cod fisheries and ecosystems are hidden by
Interactions in the journey of fish to fork
Seafood in Europe
market dynamics. The study showed how UK imports
of Atlantic cod from Iceland and the Faroe Islands have
helped to keep the supply of cod in the United Kingdom
steady while the regional stocks in the North Sea were
declining and on the brink of collapse. The research also
showed this weak signal of declining stocks of North
Sea cod was further enhanced by substitution with
other whitefish, with only moderate effects on cod's
retail price. More importantly, consumers' abilities to
perceive price changes resulting from these complex
market mechanisms and interpret them as a reflection
of the ecological status of cod were considered limited
(Cronaet al., 2015).
The study on North Sea cod illustrates how the current
functioning of the market and trade disconnects local
ecosystems from consumers. This disconnect makes
it difficult for consumers, as well as other actors
in the supply chain, to make responsible choices,
both environmentally and socially. The impacts of
international trade on individual fisheries go beyond
effects on fish stocks and affect the activities and
local communities that depend on them especially in
small-scale fisheries, which constitute a major element
of today's food system (Crona et al., 2016). As such,
there is a need to better understand the distributional
impacts and benefits of the increasing globalisation
of the seafood trade, namely in terms of equity
(Ascheetal., 2015).
The EU's exposure to illicit fishing through international
The existence of illegal, unreported and unregulated
(IUU) fisheries is enabled by a lack of traceability
in the supply chain and markets (Flothmann etal.,
2010). An unintended consequence of the expansion
of international trade is that it has created a complex
environment that facilitates IUU fishing. Although
difficult to quantify, IUU fishing is estimated to
represent more than 15% of world catches and its
impact can be seen across the world (Agnew etal.,
2009; FAO, 2016). IUU fishing is a major threat to
marine ecosystems, food security and livelihoods
in many countries, and undermines the efforts of
legitimate fishing operators.
The EU is the world's largest seafood importer, which
makes it a valuable destination market for illegal
fishing operators (EJF, 2013). Around 50% of the global
seafood trade (by value) comes from developing
countries, where IUU fishing is more difficult to track
and control (FAO, 2016). IUU fishing is most common
in the waters of developing countries that lack
either the capacity or the political will to apply good
governance to fish resources and put in place a robust
fisheries management regime and proper control and
surveillance of their waters (EJF, 2013).
Being the world's most valuable seafood market
also puts the EU in a powerful position to foster
sustainability and equity outside its borders. The EU
has been taking an active role against IUU fishing since
2010. The EU IUU Regulation provides a framework
that allows illegal fish to be seized in European ports,
encourages flag states (i.e. where fishing vessels are
registered) to improve their monitoring and control,
and encourages the engagement of coastal states in
protecting their marine resources.
In spite of difficulties in the implementation of this EU
regulation, improved control measures are in place
in both importing Member States and third countries
that export to the EU (European Parliament, 2013).
Illegal operators are also being deterred through
its 'carding system' (see Box 3.1 for a testimonial
from the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF)).
The IUU Regulation is considered to have placed the
EU at the forefront of global efforts to address illicit
fishing (European Parliament, 2013; IUUWatch, 2016).
However, flag states without adequate controls over
their fishing fleets, and whose vessels are engaged
in IUU fishing, are continuing to export fish that can
enter the EU (EJF', 2014); therefore, addressing IUU
fishing requires a sustained and coordinated effort
that includes governments, civil society, the seafood
industry and other stakeholders.
0500 1 000 1 50
Central America
Eastern Europe
Western Africa
Southern Asia
Northern Africa
Northern America
Eastern Asia
South-eastern Asia
South America
Northern Europe
Million tonnes
Figure 3.1 Top 10 regions exporting to the EU-28
(tonnes), 2013
Note: The specied 10 regions represented around 90% of the
total exports to the EU in 2013, but the EU trades with all of
the regions of the world (the imports from the remaining
regions are under 'other').
Source: Based on FAO, 2016; FAO Food Balance Sheets: Food Supply
Interactions in the journey of fish to fork
24 Seafood in Europe
Box 3.1 The EU IUU Regulation as a catalyst of sustainability and equity in external waters: an Environmental
Justice Foundation testimonial
The EU IUU Regulation has become, in the EJF's view, the single most effective and important tool employed today in the
global effort to combat IUU fishing. Among the many features of this regulation, the EU has put in place a 'carding system'
that not only is proving very effective in eradicating the scourge of IUU, but is also acting as a driver for change towards the
environmental, social and economic sustainability of fisheries around the world, decreasing the conduct of IUU activities
and in turn the number of illegal products in the world's largest single market for seafood, the EU (EJF, 2012).
One example of the effectiveness and positive impact of the EU Regulation to combat IUU and drive better fisheries
management is the case of South Korea. South Korea is one of the main long-distance fishing fleets in the world, with
vessels operating in every region of the world, including West Africa. For many years, South Korean industrial vessels
operated illegally and without control in the inshore exclusion zones off the coast of Liberia and Sierra Leone, depleting
marine biodiversity in these rich fishing grounds and damaging food security and the livelihoods of artisanal fisher
communities dependent on these resources. A key factor in the ability of the South Korean distant water fleet to operate
in this way was the complete lack of any meaningful governance applied by South Korea as the flag state. Distance and
disinterest on the part of political authorities in Seoul had left South Korean vessels free from restrictions on their activities.
Having been made aware of the considerable abuses taking place in West African waters and knowledgeable of the
vulnerability of the region to IUU fishing, the European Commission initiated investigations into these abuses and South
Korea's role as a flag state (EJF etal., 2015). A dialogue was established with the country's competent authorities, initially
resulting in the imposition of a 'yellow card' by the Commission in 2013 (EC, 2013b). This yellow card is an official warning
that the country may be considered as 'non-cooperating' in the fight against IUU and therefore calls for ambitious reforms
of its fisheries governance and management system. The European Commission helps the country in the process of change,
by jointly drafting an action plan and advising the country on how to implement it. If the yellow-carded country refuses to
establish the necessary policies and legislation, the EU issues a 'red card', which carries with it several sanctions, among
them a trade ban on fishery products exported to the EU and the prohibition for EU vessels to fish in the waters of the
country that has been carded.
Photo: © Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF)
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Seafood in Europe
Box 3.1 The EU IUU Regulation as a catalyst of sustainability and equity in external waters: an Environmental
Justice Foundation testimonial (cont.)
However, the key aim of this process is not punitive, but is rather for the EU to be a constructive, powerful driver for change.
Hence, the 'red card' is always a last resort and used only in the most extreme circumstances. Conversely, if the carded
country collaborates and implements reforms, it is delisted and supported in this process.
South Korea was willing to undertake essential changes. Within a year and a half of being yellow carded, Seoul amended
its outdated fisheries law, including the aim to achieve greater control as a flag state and provisions against South Korean
individuals and companies involved in IUU activities, even if flying foreign flags. The amended law also forbade long-distance
fishing in countries in which control of the waters could not be properly ensured by their governments (such as Somalia).
South Korea also put in place a state of the art vessel monitoring system by satellite and a fisheries monitoring centre that
allowed it to monitor each of its vessels in real time, no matter where and when they were fishing. The country launched a
decommissioning programme to buy back vessels operating in West Africa.
For a country for which long-distance fishing is an important economic sector and part of its history, such a fundamental
change proved difficult and took time, but the political will of South Korea and the assistance of the EU eventually led to the
accomplishment of the action plan, and the country was successfully delisted in April 2015 (EC, 2015b). As a result, West
African waters have seen a huge reduction in South Korean pirate fishing, and the number of IUU products in the supply
chains of both the South Korean and the EU markets has shrunk. A fundamental improvement of South Korean fisheries
governance is now in place and the country is ready to become a new leader in a part of the world, East Asia, where many
countries also play an important role in long-distance fishing, thus having the potential to create a multiplying positive
Many other countries have undergone this process within the scheme of the EU IUU cards, and most of them have
successfully implemented the much-needed reforms: Belize, Fiji, Ghana, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Sri Lanka,
Togo and Vanuatu and have been either yellow or red carded and eventually managed to get delisted, all with the technical
assistance of the EU. In the case of developing countries, EU aid was also provided. In general, after the process, these
now 'green-carded' countries are often grateful to the European Commission, as the card was the means to implement
major improvements in their fisheries governance, which in many cases would not have happened otherwise. The new
policies allow developing coastal countries to preserve and conserve healthy fishing grounds and to increase the revenue
stemming from legal and controlled fishing in their waters. However, there is still some work to do with other countries that
remain yellow or red carded at the moment; both Cambodia and Guinea are currently holding a red card, and the following
countries are currently holding yellow cards: Curaçao, Kiribati, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines,
Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Comoros, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago and Tuvalu.
3.2 Aquaculture feed connects fisheries,
aquaculture and land
Globally and within Europe, aquaculture is looked
towards as an answer to meeting the growing
consumer demand for fish. If aquaculture is to
support the increased demand for food in a way that
adds resilience to the global food system it needs to
adequately capture and monitor the interactions with
the marine ecosystem beyond what happens at the
farm level (Troell, 2014). One such interaction is the use
of feed resources in aquaculture.
Shellfish species such as mussels, oysters and clams
that filter water for their nutrition do not need
manufactured feed. On the other hand, farmed
fish and shrimp can require significant amounts of
fishmeal and fish oil in their diet (Tacon and Metian,
2015). Fishmeal and fish oil are manufactured from
marine feed ingredients, which are mostly produced
from wild fish (75%), in combination with by-catch or
fish trimmings (25%) (IFFO, 2014). Therefore current
aquaculture production from carnivorous fish species
such as salmon, seabass, seabream and shrimp still
relies significantly on already limited capture fisheries
for feed input.
The dependency of aquaculture on wild fish stocks for
feed has triggered changes in the sector, in particular
in the production of carnivorous fish species, such
as salmon and most other marine species produced
in aquaculture, which require significant amounts of
fishmeal and fish oil in their diet (Purchase and Dom,
2015). Forced by increasing prices and the limited
availability of raw material, linked to the fast growth
of aquaculture at the global level, the use of marine
ingredients in aquaculture feed has been decreasing
and progress in developing feed alternatives has
Interactions in the journey of fish to fork
26 Seafood in Europe
been made (e.g. plants, insects, microbes, algae,
by-products) (Rana etal., 2009; Tacon and Metian,
2015; Ytrestøyl etal., 2015). The dependency on feed
for salmon production, one of the most consumed
species in the EU, is explored in Box 3.2. At the same
time, the fish meal industry is working towards greater
responsibility with regard to sustainable sourcing
of feed ingredients, with over one third of the world
production coming from 'The Marine Ingredients
Organisation' (IFFO) responsible supply standard'
certified factories (Jackson, 2012). The IFFO standard
is an independently audited certification standard that
is based on the Food and Agriculture Organization of
the United Nations (FAO) Code of Responsible Fishing
(Pike and Jackson, 2010).
Research and innovation are accelerating progress
towards reducing fishmeal and fish oil use in
aquaculture feeds, while maintaining the important
human health benefits of seafood consumption.
Nonetheless, aquaculture is likely to continue to
rely on the inclusion of some marine ingredients,
which, for the foreseeable future, will remain
highly in-demand ingredients in aquaculture feed
(FAO, 2016). As such, monitoring the influence of
aquaculture of fed-species on wild stocks is and will
remain paramount for the sustainable development
of aquaculture. Our present knowledge on the
interaction between aquaculture and fisheries is
however limited by the lack of traceability between
these activities and their management.
Traceability between the fish stocks targeted for
non-food use and the fishing fleets catching them is
limited at present, with data partly available through
national statistics or IFFO(5) communications.
Publically available statistics on fish for the EU
(EUMOFA, 2016) and at the global level (FAO FishStat,
2016) only allow the last point of sale for imports
of fish at the species level to be identified or for
the fish to be categorised as non-food use. The link
between the fish stocks targeted for feed, the actors
processing the fish for fishmeal and fish oil, and the
aquaculture companies buying the feed for their
production is thus not monitored at present. This lack
of traceability hinders an adequate assessment of the
fishing pressure exerted on fish stocks for non-food
purposes. Therefore, there is limited understanding
of how much pressure fed aquaculture is putting on
wild fish stocks, where the targeted stocks are — and
who is responsible for their management — as well as
how to balance fishing pressure according to the state
of the targeted stocks for fishmeal and fish oil. This is
essential knowledge for the sustainable management
of fisheries and for food security.
The assessment of the interactions between
aquaculture feed and land ecosystems is also
insufficient at present. Production innovations may be
reducing reliance on wild fish caught for aquaculture
feed, but this in turn will likely increase dependency
on land-based ingredients. As shown in Figure 3.2,
currently land-based ingredients are a big part of
different types of aquaculture feed. As aquaculture
production continues to grow worldwide, competition
with land-based production can be expected. Already
the most commonly used alternative to fishmeal is soya
meal (see also Figure 3.3 in Box 3.2), which is produced
in large quantities in China, as well as in North and
South America. In addition, inclusion of terrestrial
ingredients in aquaculture feed has implications for
land and freshwater requirements, with consequential
issues for biodiversity, soil erosion and deforestation,
and will have other potential environmental impacts
(Lane etal., 2014).
The dependency on terrestrial ingredients in
aquaculture feed has led the FAO to state that
'Although the discussion on the availability and use
of aquafeed ingredients often focuses on fishmeal
and fish-oil resource, considering the past trends
and current predictions, the sustainability of the
aquaculture sector will probably be closely linked
with the sustained supply of terrestrial animal and
plant proteins, oils and carbohydrates for aquafeeds'
(FAO,2012). Nevertheless, the dependencies on the
land required for aquaculture feed production, and
how changes in the global food landscape can affect
the availability and price of both marine and terrestrial
ingredients used in this type of feed remain under-
In summary, given the global food landscape, the
critical role of aquaculture in supplying food for
Europe and beyond is undeniable. In addition, while
all animals need to eat and most farmed animals need
to be fed, aquaculture represents the most efficient
method by which to convert feed to edible protein
(Welch etal., 2010; Brummett, 2013; Waite and Kaushik,
2014). Nevertheless, the development of aquaculture
needs to better capture less visible interactions with
marine and land ecosystems, such as those with wild
fish and terrestrial plant production, if it is to develop
(5) IFFO is the international 'not for profit' organisation that represents and promotes the fishmeal, fish oil and
wider marine ingredients industry worldwide.
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Seafood in Europe
Figure 3.2 Typical levels of major categories of feed ingredients within compound aquaculture feeds
Source: Based on Tacon and Metian, 2015.
24 %
24 %
24 %
24 %
4 %
Aquaculture feeds
Aquaculture protein meals and oils
Terrestrial animal proteins and oils
Terrestrial plant proteins and oils
Other plant meals and fillers
Feed additives
4 %
14 %
29 %
49 %
4 %
Herbivorous and omnivorous fish
30 %
20 %
30 %
15 %
5 %
Marine and carnivorous fish Penaeid shrimp species
19 %
9 %
29 %
29 %
4 %
These are important considerations for the
development of aquaculture in Europe, which is a
strategic priority for the development of its blue
economy (EC, 2012). In addition, food security is a core
objective of the new EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
Balancing the fishing capacity of the fleets with fishing
opportunities is currently a management objective of
the CFP (EC, 2016a). This policy has also included the
management of aquaculture since 2014, making it
possible to address important 'blind spots' that exist
in the relationship between fisheries and aquaculture,
such as those related in this section to aquaculture
feed production. However, to this day, most efforts
have focused on ensuring the adequate environmental
management of aquaculture operations (EC, 2016b).
Although this is a critical requirement for the
sustainable growth of the sector, the current policy and
research debate around the sustainable development
of aquaculture in Europe still lacks an integrated
approach to aquaculture and fisheries.
Interactions in the journey of fish to fork
28 Seafood in Europe
Box 3.2 Salmon production and the demand on marine feed ingredients
With a production of 217000 tonnes, Denmark is the largest producer of marine ingredients in the EU and is ranked
seventh globally (IFFO, 2014). The majority of fishmeal and fish oil produced in Denmark is used in the region Europe
(>60%), in particular for salmon production in Norway (>30%), while a fraction (>15%) is exported outside the boundaries
of Europe (e.g. to China). Salmon consumption is high in the EU (1.97kg/capita/year), but most salmon production takes
place outside EU borders. Of the 1.4 million tonnes of Atlantic salmon produced in the region Europe in 2013, only 12%
is produced in the EU (in the United Kingdom and Ireland), with 81% produced in Norway and 6% in other European
countries (e.g. Faroe Islands and Iceland) (FAO Fishstat, 2016). Hence, Norwegian salmonid culture puts significant pressure
on the total demand for marine ingredients (Figure 3.3).
Between 2010 and 2013, Norwegian salmonid production increased by 30%, but because of a lower inclusion of marine
ingredients in the diet, the total amount of marine ingredients used for salmon feed production decreased from 544000
to 466000 tonnes (Ytrestøyl etal., 2015). Of the total fishmeal and fish oil used, around 60% was imported (IFFO, 2014),
which makes Norway the second largest importer of marine ingredients worldwide. In total, 74% of marine ingredients
used in salmonid culture originated from fisheries, of which 30–35% was of North Atlantic origin (mainly capelin and sprat),
whereas 37% came from anchovy fisheries in South America (Ytrestøyl etal., 2015). The dependency on wild fish to produce
salmon has decreased significantly over the last two decades and salmon aquaculture is now a net producer of marine
proteins (although not yet for fish oil), measured using the Forage Fish Dependency Ratio (FFDR) for fishmeal and fish oil
(FFDRmeal and FFDRoil, respectively) (FFDRmeal<1; FFDRoil>1; Figure 3.3).
Figure 3.3 Feed resources, aquafeed utilisation, production and trade of Atlantic salmon in Norway
Note: The FFDR is the amount of wild caught sh used in the production of shmeal and sh oil for the production of 1kg of salmon;
the marine dependency ratio (MDR) expresses the amount of marine oil and protein required to produce 1kg of salmon oil and
Source: Based on IFFO, 2014 and Ytrestøyl et al., 2015.
Utilisation of feed resources for production of Atlantic salmon in Norway in 2013 Trade
to EU-28
Plant ingredients
1.1 million tonnes
32 % soya protein
28 % rapeseed oil
40 % other oil,
protein, starch
Feed consumed
1.63 million tonnes
Salmon produced
1.26 million tonnes
Edible yield
820 000 tonnes
Forage fish dependency ratio
1.5 (oil)
0.7 (meal)
29 %
67 %
4 %
Marine dependency ratio
0.5 (oil)
0.7 (meal)
466 362 tonnes
74 % wild fish
26 % by-catch and trimmings
Marine ingredients
42 %
Net import
58 %
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Seafood in Europe
3.3 A globalised seafood supply chain
with emerging partnerships
The global increase in demand for seafood has
supported globalisation in the industry, often
reducing the number and diversity of market actors
through industry consolidation of large and vertically
integrated transnational corporations, connected
by global networks of subsidiaries (Österblom etal.,
2015). In the global seafood industry, a small number
of such transnational corporations involved in all
segments of seafood production dominate trade
in terms of both volume and profit. Of the top 160
companies in the seafood trade, 10 account for 38%
of total revenues and a significant portion of the
world's most valuable capture fisheries (Österblom
etal., 2015). Overall, they handle some 208 species
and operate in over 102countries and territories,
effectively linking consumers to distant producers and
Corporate consolidation of such transnational
companies can raise equity and sustainability
concerns. The concentration of economic power and
control over several nodes in the food supply chain
enhances the ability of such companies to define
production terms and set prices, while bringing them
a disproportionate ability to influence the dynamics
of marine ecosystems worldwide (Österblom etal.,
2015). However, the existence of globally networked
and vertically integrated companies also means
that the collective action by a few key entities could
transform the industry substantially.
Globalised food supply chains offer opportunities for
sustainability leadership and partnerships that can
prove critical for food security. Recent years have
seen a notable increase in partnerships between
supply chain actors — including retailers, food
services and restaurants, processors and distributors
— and fisheries associations, non-governmental
organisations and government bodies to increase
the sustainability of their supply chains (Innovation
Forum, 2015). The goal of partnerships is to recognise
and introduce improvements into the supply chain
where possible.
Traceability along the supply chain is a key factor for
effective sustainable seafood sourcing partnerships
(Bailey et al., 2016). However, it is still difficult
to ensure full traceability along seafood supply
chains because of a lack of financial and technical
resources, the complexity of value chains and seafood
governance, and unlawful fishing practices and
inconsistencies in legislation (UNEP, 2009; Future
of Fish, 2015). As such, certification schemes are a
common tool that retailers and other supply chain
actors use to identify the sustainability of products
(UNEP, 2009). However, critics of such approaches
point out a number of shortcomings. For example,
certification schemes usually do not assess the
sustainability of fisheries based on a systems view,
and can end up certifying fisheries with unsustainable
features, such as overfished stocks or practices that
disadvantage the needs of local populations (Cressey,
2012; Micheli etal., 2014). The costs of certification
or participation in certification schemes also make
them currently more suited for production practices
with high-volume, which raises questions about the
suitability of such schemes for small-scale fisheries,
in particular in developing countries (Blackmore et al.,
Some supply chain partnerships go beyond simply
increasing the number of certified products.
Several initiatives exist, run by non-governmental
organisations and supply chain actors, to bring
retailers and other stakeholders together in fishery
improvement projects (FIPs) (for examples see SFP,
2016 and WWF, 2016a). FIPs are concrete projects
that are set up to realise more sustainable practices
at the source of seafood supplies. Some such projects
are initiated directly by retailers (UNEP, 2009). In
FIPs, stakeholders in a given fishery commit to
advocating better policies and management while
voluntarily changing practices. This includes improving
monitoring and reporting, changing harvesting
techniques or equipment, encouraging dialogue
among stakeholders, and sharing best practices,
among other interventions.
Partnerships between retailers and producers such as
in FIPs offer an opportunity to catalyse the transition
to sustainable seafood systems by leveraging retailers'
market power and creating market-based incentives for
implementing new sustainable fishery and aquaculture
practices. However, the current lack of transparency,
insufficient traceability and perverse incentives that
encourage unsustainable fishing practices hinder
the potential of the seafood supply-chain to act with
greater awareness and responsibility in order to shift
the food system as a whole (Future of Fish, 2015). Given
the current structure of the EU's food supply-chain
and where actors concentrate (Figure 3.4), it is clear
that these actors need to be involved in the design
and implementation of solutions for sustainability in
the food system. This involvement however requires
a better understanding of practices and behaviours
within food supply-chains and how they influence
change in the food system.
Interactions in the journey of fish to fork
30 Seafood in Europe
3.4 Market incentives and consumer
choices for sustainability
Consumers are increasingly looking to promote
improvements in sustainable seafood production
by aligning their buying choices with sustainability
criteria. Production exists because of consumers.
However, consumers come at the end of a long chain
of actors across markets within the food system. Over
recent decades, there has been a growing amount
of information available to consumers through
various types of initiative, especially labelling (TNS,
2014). Significant efforts have been made to provide
consumers with more and better information (e.g.labels,
certification schemes, information campaigns and buying
guides) to inform them about the sustainability of their
fish and seafood purchases (see Box 3.3 for examples
at the EU level). However, there is insufficient evidence
that these efforts have led to major gains in the overall
Figure 3.4 Europe's food supply chain by the number of enterprises in each food system activity
Source: EEA.
505 572 000
47 000
11 989 000
289 000
208 000
98 000
sustainability of seafood, requiring a deeper investigation
of their use (Ward and Phillips 2008; McClenachan etal.,
2016; Jacquet etal., 2010).
Environmental certification schemes such as the Marine
Stewardship Council (MSC) and consumer awareness
programmes are designed to create market incentives
for implementing fishery and aquaculture practices
that are deemed sustainable. However, there are
recognised limits to such initiatives. Typically, they tend
to be focused on particular species and activities, and
such programmes have so far triggered concerns, even
if some improvements are visible (Gulbrandsen, 2009).
For example, a study of 31 northern European stocks
targeted by fisheries certified by the MSC as sustainable
and well managed found that 11 stocks (52%) were
exploited above the maximum sustainable yield and
four stocks (16%) were outside safe biological limits.
After 1to 10 years (4 years on average), no significant
Interactions in the journey of fish to fork
Seafood in Europe
that there are limitations to the amount of information
that consumers process when making choices, leading
them to use mental shortcuts and rules of thumb to
allow for quick decision-making, particularly in habitual
behaviour such as food consumption (O'Rourke and
Ringer, 2016).
Consumer choices are difficult to understand and
therefore influence, because they are often embedded
in deeper social and institutional contexts. Consumer
selection of fish and seafood is influenced by a number
of factors, including freshness, taste, personal health
beliefs, traditional and cultural reasons (e.g. local
customs, eating fish when on holiday, trends), and
knowledge about preparing fish (Almeida, 2014). Price is
often indicated as the largest factor influencing fish and
seafood purchase, as it is often more expensive than
meat. Other consumer barriers for the consumption
of fish are the presence of bones, contamination risks,
variation in quality, the perceived time-consuming
character of purchasing, preparing and cooking fish, the
limited product availability, and the perceived difficulty in
the evaluation of its quality (Vanhonacker etal., 2013).
Technological innovations in food systems since the
1960s have enabled an increasing quantity and variety
of foods to be produced, and at lower prices (Cutler et
al., 2003). Ready-prepared food could be more attractive
to consumers than fresh products, despite the latter
usually being related to healthier food choices (Cheng
etal., 2007; Hartmann et al., 2013). Overall, this suggests
a trend towards convenience rather than other selection
criteria such as health, sustainability or taste. This
raises doubt as to how important sustainably sourced
seafood may be to consumers, and whether or not such
information would steer consumers' decision-making.
Consumers are important as political actors, whose
voice can drive the political will to address seafood
production sustainability and responsibility, particularly
at system level. However, the complexity of the web
of dynamic factors influencing seafood consumption
choices in any particular setting suggests that an
effective intervention to change consumer behaviour
— be it initiated by policy, business or civil society,
or an alliance of actors — will be a considerable
challenge. Shifting the sustainability of production
through consumer preferences will remain difficult
without a better understanding of how the approaches
to displaying information affect consumers, their
preferences and the choices they make. Even with the
right information, consumer choices are also dependent
on many different factors beyond the information they
receive (Umpfenbach, 2014). Human factors such as the
above need to be taken into account if sustainability
transformations at system level are to be achieved
through consumer power.
changes in fishing pressure or stock size were observed
(Opitzetal., 2016).
Such schemes also come under scrutiny as operations
can be certified despite degradation of marine
ecosystems, loss of income among local communities
and negative social impacts from the non-certified
operations that overlap with certified production
systems. Furthermore, the high financial costs and data
requirements associated with meeting certification and
recommendation-listing standards often discourage or
prevent small-scale operations from participating (Ward
and Phillips, 2008). Moreover, certification initiatives
such as the MSC have been designed to be globally
applicable. This means that place-specific attributes
and regional or local considerations may not be taken
into consideration when certifying fisheries, with favour
given to transnational governance norms (Blackmore
etal., 2015; Foley and Havice, 2016). In regard to
aquaculture specifically, initiatives also tend to target
species that are consumed mostly within the EU and the
United States, with limited coverage of what is sold in
Asia (Jonell etal., 2013). But there seems to be a rise in
new fishery eco-certification initiatives that are tied to
political boundaries and therefore better represent local
territorial and social norms in certification and within the
global framework (Foley and Havice, 2016).
New concepts for system-wide fishery and aquaculture
certification programmes designed to recognise and
promote change towards sustainable and resilient
seafood production systems are being discussed (Micheli
etal., 2014). Such programmes would consider all fishery
and aquaculture activities within a system or region, as
well as their possible interactions with — and cumulative
impacts on — ecosystems or marine users; management
actions that promote ecological, social and economic
resilience; and the capacity of human communities to
implement these actions and to equitably share costs
and benefits. These could support the restoration and
maintenance of healthy ecosystem states and of thriving
human communities as a socio-ecological system
(Micheli etal., 2014).
Information- and incentive-based solutions that explore
consumer demand through eco-certifications and
consumer awareness programmes reward producers
for sustainable practices through increased prices
or market access by increasing the differentiation of
products on the market. They offer great promise
for aligning economic and conservation objectives,
because they create incentives for producing fish and
seafood sustainably. However, even if consumers
are properly informed regarding the sustainability
of their options, this may not be enough to change
their behaviour, especially at a large scale. Research
on real-world consumer behaviour has clearly shown
Interactions in the journey of fish to fork
32 Seafood in Europe
Box 3.3 Examples of EU approaches to provide better information on seafood and raise awareness
Recently the EU has run a Europe-wide information campaign — Inseparable
— to promote sustainable fishing and build on the momentum of the CFP
reform. The campaign is built around key areas of information: know, eat, buy,
sell and find. It promotes the following overarching message to EU consumers:
'Make a difference by eating, buying, or selling sustainable seafood and help
ensure future generations have the same love story we have with our fish today'
The new EU seafood labelling rules are also key for providing consumers with
detailed information about their choices. Fishery and aquaculture products
sold and bought in the EU are now required to have information about the
commercial and scientific name of the species, whether it was caught at sea or in
freshwater or was farmed, the catch or production area and the type of fishing
gear used to catch the product, and whether the product has been defrosted and
the date of minimum durability (see Figure 3.5). The new rules aim to make the
information to consumers more transparent, helping them understand where
their seafood has come from and when it was caught or farmed. Ultimately, the
request for such information improves greater transparency and traceability all
along the seafood supply chain and can thus also support more informed choices
by those actors as well.
Source: European Commission, Directorate-General for Maritime Aairs and Fisheries © European Union, 2015.
Figure 3.5 The new EU fish label
Source: European Commission,
Directorate-General for Maritime
Aairs and Fisheries
© European Union, 2015
Transforming Europe's food system
Seafood in Europe
4 Transforming Europe's food system
Box 4.1 Defining sustainability transformations
Within the context of climate change, O'Brien and Sygna (2013) propose that transformation can be defined as 'physical
and/or qualitative changes in form, structure or meaning-making, or as the altering of fundamental attributes of a system
(including value systems; regulatory, legislative, or bureaucratic regimes; financial institutions; and technological or
biological systems). According to Patterson etal. (2015), the notion of transformation is increasingly used in the context of
global sustainability to refer to 'fundamental changes in structure, function and relations within socio-technical-ecological
systems, that leads to new patterns of interactions (e.g. among actors, institutions, and dynamics between human and
biophysical systems) and outcomes'. The same authors add that transformation is also used to characterise aspirations to
shift from current conditions into more desirable system outcomes (e.g. in terms of sustainability and equity).
Solutions for addressing the sustainability issues of
today, such as those exemplified by the disparities of
the food system in terms of environmental and human
health outcomes, are needed. Such solutions need to
go beyond incremental efficiency gains, and aim to
transform the core of our production and consumption
systems (EEA, 2015b). The challenges we now face
regarding sustainability are no longer compatible with
responses solely based on the classical paradigms of
science and engineering — built on industrial models
of problem-solving and planning approaches (Rittel and
Webber, 1973). Their complexity and scale make them
different from the challenges of previous decades and
call for more substantive transformations (Box 4.1).
How, then, to approach change in the food system so
that its outcomes reflect a sustainable society such as
that envisaged by the EU?
Recognising the food system as a complex, adaptive
system, which comprises multiple actors with
diverse interests and values, certainly provides
a richer understanding of the system and the
associated sustainability challenges (Clancy, 2014;
IOM and NRC, 2015). Complexity arises whenever a
system — technical, social or natural — has multiple
interdependent parts, whose interactions give rise to
unpredictable outcomes. Complicated solutions to
address complex problems are common, but evidence
shows that simple rules tame complexity better than
complicated solutions (Cabrera and Cabrera, 2015;
Sull and Eisenhardt, 2015). Identifying the simple
rules operating in the food system is challenging
but using a system's approach to understand it
can lead to leverage points for transformations
towards sustainability. Leverage points are places to
intervene in a system, in which a small shift can lead
to fundamental changes in the system as a whole
(Meadows, 1999; Abson etal., 2016).
With such an understanding of complexity, this
chapter identifies three complementary pathways
within the current EU policy framework related to food
and sustainability that can help transform Europe's
food system. This analysis explored, in particular,
the opportunities and challenges arising from the
implementation of the EU marine and maritime policy
The pathways for change are (1) building a shared
understanding of the food system and its outcomes at
the EU level, namely by adopting a systems approach
EU policies related to food and sustainability, and
building on the EU efforts to develop the ecosystem
services approach as a common language between
ecosystems and human benefits; (2) improving the
knowledge base related to seafood in order to improve
sustainability assessments of seafood in Europe from
a food system approach; and (3) boosting efforts to
implement the ecosystem approach to Europe's seas
for securing the long-term availability of seafood.
These pathways are linked to how people make sense
of the world through mental models and take action.
Knowledge on mental models and their influence
Transforming Europe's food system
34 Seafood in Europe
on human decision-making is important because
shared mental models are persistent and can exert a
major influence on individual choices and aggregate
social outcomes (World Bank, 2015). Figure 4.1 aims
to illustrate in a simple manner the complex human
process of making sense of the food system and its
change. Mental models are individual or collective
approximations of reality (e.g. by actors in the food
system) that describe, summarise and predict the
world (in this case the food system) and lead to actions
Mental models are malleable to a certain extent.
Through information, actors in the food system receive
feedback about the consequences of their actions and
can adapt their mental models accordingly, through
what is necessarily a continuous learning and adaptive
process (Cabrera and Cabrera, 2015). A mental model
can be considered adequate if the expected outcomes
of actions in the food system occur. The type of
feedback (enabled by information flows) received from
the food system is critical to indicate if the mental
model is still valid. In addition to information, a body
of work shows that context is also key for human
decision-making and adapting mental models. People
have several different and competing individual mental
models and context will determine which one is
activated (World Bank, 2015).
Figure 4.1 Making sense of the food system
through mental models and feedback
Source: Based on Cabrera and Cabrera, 2015.
Actions in
Feedback on
Mental mode
ood system
4.1 Building a shared understanding of
the food system at the EU level
Adopting a food system approach to EU policies for food
and sustainability
At the EU level, a variety of policy instruments relate
to the production and consumption of food and
seafood, as well as to the protection and sustainable
use of ecosystems (for an illustration of this policy
framework, see Figure 4.2). In addition, these land,
marine and coastal policies related to food are
increasingly embedded in longer-term comprehensive
policies and agendas for sustainable development.
However, the implementation of this policy framework
does not currently follow a food system approach,
and interactions between policies still have the
potential to cause conflict or synergies. In addition,
governance mechanisms associated with a specific
policy are usually bound to the related policy sphere
(e.g. fisheries and aquaculture is governed by the
Common Fisheries Policy, agriculture by the Common
Agricultural Policy, the protection of biodiversity
by the Nature directives i.e. Habitats and Birds
directives), and thus mostly to the motivations and
knowledge of the actors in the related policy sphere.
Governments play an essential role in systemic
change because of their unique capacities in, for
example, defining policies with long-term societal
goals, establishing a common framework for
governance and action, shaping incentives and
supporting research and innovation. There is growing
agreement in academic literature that governments
lack the required knowledge, tools and incentives
to achieve effective top-down management of
complex societal systems (Rotmans and Loorbach,
2010). In this context, it is widely accepted that the
governance of transformations hinges on promoting
experimentation and learning, via iterative, adaptive,
participatory processes. For example, approaches
such as 'integrated sustainability assessment' and
'transitions management' propose that actors across
society be engaged in cyclical processes of problem
structuring, envisaging, experimenting and learning,
as a means to steer systemic change (Kemp etal.,
2007; SERI, 2008).
Transforming Europe's food system
Seafood in Europe
Figure 4.2 An illustration of relevant EU policies for food and sustainability up to 2050
Action Programme
Natural capital
protected, valued,
and restored
(Biodiversity strategy)
Safeguard Europe’s
Water Resources
United Nations
Climate and Energy
Spatial Planning
on Soil
Research and innovation,
trade and development policies
Living well,
within the limits
of our planet
Source: EEA.
As such, the governance mechanisms underpinning
the EU policy framework related to food can offer an
arena for the design of implementation processes
built on a food system approach, which could, in turn
allow for greater experimentation and learning. These
governance mechanisms could bring together EU
institutions, Member States, food system actors and
other stakeholders to develop processes by which
these actors could become more open to a wider
array of solutions, namely by building a shared mental
model of the food system and agreeing on what
sustainability means in the EU policy context related
to food.
Some targeted actions are already underway at EU
level that can promote the building of such a shared
mental model of the food system and design possible
pathways for sustainability transformations (Box 4.2).
Transforming Europe's food system
36 Seafood in Europe
Box 4.2 EU-level initiatives for building a shared understanding of the food system
The Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC) recently published a foresight report entitled 'Global Food
Security 2030', which highlights the need to overcome the conventional approach to food security, with much more
attention paid to food availability than to food access, nutrition and sustainability (Maggio etal., 2015). This report also
calls for the adoption of a food system approach to food security, which captures the variety of food systems that exist
throughout the world, identifies the interactions with other human systems (e.g. energy, urban systems, etc.) and policies
(e.g. trade, security, etc.), and addresses more efficiently the 'systems-oriented' issues of vulnerability, resilience and
governance. Another of the report's main recommendations was to design a common food systems policy to ensure better
policy coherence for food security.
More initiatives on food systems with a broader and longer term perspective are currently under way within the European
Commission. The JRC and the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) are starting
a vision-building exercise to provide a holistic and future-proof EU position on sustainable food systems in the context
of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) is increasingly
using a systems-oriented approach to design research and innovation strategies for the food system. In particular,
it has been steering the work of the Standing Committee on Agricultural Research (SCAR) since 2005 to promote an
integrated European Research Area with a common agricultural and wider bioeconomy research agenda. The need for
a strategic research agenda for fisheries and aquaculture within the agricultural and bioeconomy context mandated the
establishment of a specific working group in 2012 (SCAR-Fish, 2013). SCAR's foresight work has provided the building
blocks for longer-term perspectives on the development of the food system in a world of growing resource constraints
and environmental limits (EC, 2011), while under competition from other emerging uses of natural resources such as the
bioeconomy (EC,2015c).
Finally, in 2015, the EU initiated a year-long dialogue with stakeholders that will result in a 'Research and Innovation Agenda
for Food and Nutrition Security', which will mobilise the EU, international actors and invited funders (EC, 2015a). A key
objective of this process is to understand how to best pool and organise EU Research & Innovation resources in order to
future-proof European food systems to achieve food and nutrition security for all, in a global context. A 'Food Research
Area', with both EU and international partners, will be created by 2020 and will focus on the four priorities of nutrition,
climate, circularity, and innovation and empowerment of communities.
Understanding the interactions between ecosystems and
people through the common language of ecosystems
Assessing natural capital using a common language and
approach between its different users and managers
is also critical for building a shared understanding
of the food system and its outcomes. The EU has
embodied the concept of natural capital in several
key policies (namely the Biodiversity Strategy to 2020
and the 7th Environment Action Programme), and has
set forth a process under the Biodiversity Strategy to
support the development of a common assessment
approach for natural capital, based on the concept of
ecosystem services (the Mapping and Assessment of
Ecosystems and their Services (MAES) process). MAES
aims to improve the existing knowledge of ecosystems
and their services in the EU, and to make explicit the
range of human goods and benefits derived from
natural capital for a particular human activity (such
as fisheries or agriculture) or for society at large (e.g.
through cultural services, like recreation and leisure
activities such as nature watching, or regulation and
maintenance services such as climate regulation).
Developing a shared understanding of natural capital
enables human-environment relationships to be
considered in a common way. This thinking can then
be used across human systems of consumption
and production such as the food system. The MAES
process has already provided an overarching analytical
framework and the building blocks that should allow
EU Member States, the science community and food
system actors to map and assess ecosystems and
their services in a comparable way (Maes etal., 2013).
However, it is still early days in terms of assessing
ecosystems as natural capital, especially in the case of
marine ecosystems. Despite several national, regional
and EU-level initiatives for mapping and assessing
marine ecosystems and services, these analyses face
several specific challenges compared with terrestrial
ecosystems, where the ecosystem services concept and
assessment approach originated (see EEA, 2015c for a
detailed analysis of these initiatives).
Transforming Europe's food system
Seafood in Europe
The ocean is a fluid environment. Given the
interconnected nature of the marine environment,
marine ecosystem interactions are particularly intricate
when compared with those in terrestrial ecosystems.
The generation of marine ecosystem services from
which human benefits such as seafood are derived is
a complex process (see Figure 4.3 for an illustration
of the process and EEA, 2015c for details on marine
ecosystem service generation). Ecosystem services
are the final outputs or products from ecosystems
that are directly consumed, used (actively or passively)
or enjoyed by people. They result from a range of
interactions at the ecosystem level, between its
structures, processes and functions. In addition,
obtaining the benefits from the services requires
human inputs such as labour, capital or energy
investments. Often, however, there is insufficient
awareness of how marine natural capital, and
ecosystems services in particular, is generated among
its users and managers. This hinders decision-making
aimed at maintaining the resilience of ecosystems and
their self-renewing capacity for providing ecosystems
services in the long-term (EEA, 2015c).
Nevertheless, ecosystem services assessment is a
systems methodology that allows the complexity of
Figure 4.3 Ecosystem services as a common language to illustrate how people benefit from healthy
marine ecosystems
Note: * These are underpinned, to any degree, by marine organisms, ecosystems and/or land/seascapes.
Source: EEA based on O'Higgins, 2015 and EEA, 2015c.
Wild fish and shellfish
Wild plants and algae
Fish and shellfish from
marine aquaculture
Plants and algae from
marine aquaculture
Materials for agriculture and aquafeed
Raw materials
Genetic materials
Waste treatment/detoxification
Natural hazard and erosion regulation
Oxygen production
Mediation of nuisances (smell, visual impacts)
Seed and reproductive cell dispersal
Maintenance of nursery populations and habitats
Gene pool protection
Pest and disease control
Sediment nutrient cycling
Water quality regulation
Climate regulation
Recreation and leisure
Knowledge development (science, education)
Cultural heritage
Aesthetic experience
Inspiration for culture, art, design
Sacred and/or religious experience
Species and habitats
(living elements)
Nutrients, light
(non-living elements)
Nutrient uptake
Biological/ecological interactions
Food web dynamics
Functions (examples):
Primary production
Nutrient cycling
Carbon sequestration
Nutrition (food)
Aquafeed (fish food)
Aquaculture seed
Clean water
Erosion prevention
Sea defence (floods)
Breathable air
Clean sediments
Habitable ambient climate
Enhanced physical or mental
Knowledge gains
Art and design pieces
Transforming Europe's food system
38 Seafood in Europe
environmental management decisions to be broken
down so that the dependencies between human
well-being and ecosystem health are considered in
tandem. Having an EU-common approach for assessing
interactions between ecosystems and people paves the
way for food system actors and regulators to see and
value not only the ecosystems services available to be
harvested or captured, but also the dependencies at
ecosystem level that support the delivery of services
that underpin food provisioning. The ecosystem
services approach should also allow for a better
understanding of how the food system interacts with
ecosystems and to enable us to see if they are pushing
ecological boundaries.
4.2 Improving the seafood knowledge
The feedback from data and information flows in the
food system is essential for monitoring change in the
system, as well as for adapting the mental models that
allow us to make sense of the observed change and
take action (as illustrated in Figure 4.1). Determining
whether or not Europe's food system is developing in
line with the EU 2050 vision of 'living well, within the
limits of our planet' will require data and information
that allows the EU to better track its outcomes in
terms of food security, ecosystem health and social
well-being and across scales — from local to global.
Moreover, such feedback should also allow for an
integrated assessment of the food system and its
dynamics, i.e. one that makes it possible to understand
how the different activities of the supply-chain shape
the demand and supply of food. The assessment of
the knowledge base for exploring the dynamics and
outcomes of the fish to fork activities (an illustration
of which is given in Chapter 3) revealed opportunities
and gaps that are shared below, for enhancing future
sustainability assessments of seafood in Europe from a
food system approach.
Harnessing knowledge from seafood-related EU policy
There is a great wealth of data and information
already available from EU policy implementation
processes that can be used in an integrated
assessment of fish consumption and production in
and for the EU. Chapter 3 of this report emerged
partially from the exploration of publically available
environmental and socio-economic data, which
enabled aspects of fish production, processing
and trade to be understood. These data come
from national reporting obligations under the
Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) or were mobilised
under this policy, for example, through market
analysis. The background analysis also used public
expert assessments (and the data underpinning
these assessments) related to the CFP governance
mechanisms (i.e. from the Scientific, Technical and
Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF)) that
analyse, on a regular basis, how fish production and
processing is performing in the EU using biological
and socio-economic indicators.
The STECF expert assessments aim to support the
conservation and management of living marine
resources — including biological, economic,
environmental, social and technical considerations —
that can inform, among others, the evolution of policy
objectives such as those of the CFP. These assessments
further provide an entry point to understanding
national data in context for both national realities
(e.g.conditions for economic growth) and the wider
trends and outlook for the fishing, aquaculture and
processing sectors (STECF, 2014a, 2014b, 2015). In
addition, these expert analyses should increasingly
have a broader analytical approach, rather than be
a descriptive analysis of the fisheries sectors. This
broader analysis includes aspects such as drivers and
barriers to economic growth in the sectors. It also
includes an expert assessment on possible future
directions of the present assessments, on information
needs such as additional variables to be included in
the calls for data, and requests for specific studies
and other data sources to be used. Box4.3 provides
an example of such expert requests by presenting key
messages for improving the analysis of the processing
sector from the latest STECF assessments of the
economic performance of this sector.
The messages in Box 4.3 highlight knowledge gaps
or knowledge enhancement opportunities that could
support a better understanding of fish production
and consumption from a food system approach. If
implemented, these and other improvements would
be important steps towards an integrated assessment
of the consumption and production of seafood,
and towards getting feedback on change from key
interactions in the food system. In addition, further
questions could be brought to these expert groups to
enable future sustainability assessments of seafood in
Transforming Europe's food system
Seafood in Europe
Box 4.3 Key messages from expert assessments to improve a food system approach to the analysis of
the EU fisheries sectors (6)
Making the link between the fishing fleet and the processing sector
It is obvious that the performance of the fishing fleet and the behavior of fishermen influence the exploitation rate and, therefore, it
makes sense to analyse the socio-economic performance of the fleet. The link from the fish processing industries to the 'sustainable
exploitation of marine living resources' is less obvious. […] STECF has several times recommended that the EC should issue a study
to elaborate how the link between the activities of the fishing fleet and the processing sector can be assessed and make this link
more transparent. The study shall include an elaboration of how data on raw material [e.g. the purchase of fish by species and
origin] can be collected by the Member States and how this additional data can be linked to the already collected data.
(STECF, 2014b, p. 333)
Discussing drivers and trends along the whole value chain
The fish processing sector is not acting in isolation. The industry is purchasing raw material from the fisheries and aquaculture
sector and on the other hand, the processed or semi-processed products go up in the value chain to supermarkets. Therefore,
looking at the value chain as a whole may give a better indication of which drivers and trends are influencing on the processing
industry, in contrast to just analyzing the DCF or EUMAP data [i.e. reported under the EU framework for the collection and
management of fisheries data] on the status of the industry.
(STECF, 2014b, p. 334)
An important development of the fish processing industry is the outsourcing of activities. However, many of these activities
are outsourced to countries outside Europe (like filleting of Cod in China) and it will be necessary to broaden the analyses and
perspective looking outside of the EU. However, for this kind of analysis it is not yet clear what data is needed and what data is
available for such an analysis.
(STECF, 2014b, p. 334)
Harnessing market information for greater insights
Even without the data on raw material […] the inclusion of market information is seen as a step forward and it is very useful to
get more insights and understanding on the processing industry. The market information [available from the EUMOFA website]
provides knowledge on origin, species and degree of processing. The trade statistics are publicly available […]. However, without the
more detailed information on raw material the market data still only provides limited additional information on how dependent
local/regional industries are on local/regional stock in the EU.
(STECF, 2014b, p. 334)
Improving food system traceability and assessment
through seafood market information
The recent evolution of market traceability systems in
the seafood sector offers opportunities to track the
sustainability characteristics of a given fish product
during its journey through the value chain (Bailey etal.,
2016). Important changes in the EU fisheries policies are
also increasing the traceability of fisheries products that
(6) The paragraphs in this box were extracted from STECF (2014b) for illustration purposes. Text in square brackets has been added for
explanatory purposes.
are produced and consumed by the EU. Beyond the new
rules for seafood labelling (referred to in Section 3.4),
the revised Common Market Organisation under the
new CFP brought with it dedicated market intelligence
tools (i.e. provided by the European Market Observatory
for Fisheries and Aquaculture — EUMOFA(7)). These
public tools allow for a better understanding of how the
EU market functions and can support better tracking of
what happens on the markets after fish is caught.
Transforming Europe's food system
40 Seafood in Europe
EUMOFA was officially launched in 2013 as a European
Commission initiative to increase market efficiency
and support business decisions and policymaking.
Currently, EUMOFA focuses on information on general
market trends for increasing the economic viability of
the market for fishery and aquaculture products. By
doing so, it contributes to the promotion and presence
of EU fishery products on the market (both the internal
and external markets), which can translate into
increased income and work opportunities in the sector.
In addition, specific requests can now be designed,
as the EUMOFA market intelligence tool is fully
operational. For instance, ways for this market tool
to better serve the small-scale fisheries sector have
already been identified, which could help fishers
from this sector to better understand the market
environment in which they are operating and thus
generate greater economic benefits from their
products (Josupeit, 2016). Other requests could also
be designed for the dedicated tracking, measuring and
assessment of food system outcomes of food security,
ecosystem health and social well-being from an
integrated perspective. For example, at present, linking
production and trade data at the Member State or
species level is still methodologically difficult. This more
refined understanding of where, how and which fish
are caught or farmed is key to empowering retailers,
consumers and importers by allowing them to make
informed choices.
Improving place-based understanding
New research and methods that capture the complex
and multidimensional nature of the food system and its
outcomes require an adequate level of disaggregated
data and/or an appropriate methodology to reach
consistent and robust conclusions, in particular for
informing the implementation of ecosystem-based
management. For example, work is under way to
develop a deeper understanding of fishery-dependent
communities in EU coastal areas. A recent exploratory
study was able to better estimate the contribution of
fisheries to local economies across the EU, showing
that this contribution was higher than previously
estimated (Natale etal., 2013). Coastal fishing
communities are usually supported by small-scale
fisheries, but this sector is mostly unaccounted for
in nationally or EU aggregated statistics in spite of its
recognised importance (Guyader etal., 2013; Natale
etal., 2013). By using spatial methods and by taking a
geographical, rather than administrative, perspective,
this study also showed the shortcomings of operating
with EU or regionally aggregated statistics. Highly
aggregated statistics fail to capture local dynamics
and dependencies between the ecosystem and
fishing communities, but also between the fishing
communities and the wider economy at national or EU
Highly aggregated estimates such as those at global, EU
or national level may carry more weight when it comes
to influencing policy decision-making, but they hide
socio-ecological diversity and outcomes. Such estimates
do not fully capture the contribution of fisheries
and aquaculture to food system outcomes such as
community integrity, food security and ecosystem
stewardship, which are particularly relevant at the
local level (Béne etal., 2016). Understanding these
dynamics and outcomes at the local level is key for
balancing trade-offs and exploring synergies in the food
system. Approaches already exist showing that diverse
qualitative and quantitative datasets can be integrated
in a robust and spatially explicit manner to describe
and evaluate spatial variability in the actual interactions
and outcomes associated with, for example, small-scale
fisheries (Leslie etal., 2015). Assessment frameworks
that enable the integration of data from diverse natural
and social science disciplines are key, given that
assessments based on biophysical, economic or social
data may lead to quite divergent conclusions and mask
inherent trade-offs.
4.3 Implementing an ecosystem
approach to Europe's seas
The Ecosystem Approach (EA) to management is a
holistic way of understanding the socio-ecological
interplay involved in managing the resource base for
the long-term availability of seafood. Also known as
Ecosystem-based Management (EBM), the ecosystem
approach has been incorporated as a key principle
in EU marine and maritime policies for securing the
sustainable use of Europe's seas i.e. the Integrated
Maritime Policy and its Marine Strategy Framework
Directive (MSFD), the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)
and the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive (see EEA,
2015c for a more detailed review of EBM in the EU
marine policy context).
Although many definitions of EBM exist (see Long etal.,
2015 for an extensive review of the literature), it is
essentially a policy-driven process that aims to strike
the balance between ecological and social 'wants and
needs' for the use of ecosystem services and natural
resources. It is a place-based management approach
to activities that use the ecosystem that explicitly
recognises the connections and feedbacks linking
human systems and ecosystems. EBM is also meant
to be a science- and local knowledge-based process
that involves stakeholders in an adaptive management
process to identify the policy objectives at stake and to
balance trade-offs to meet those objectives.
Transforming Europe's food system
Seafood in Europe
Source: WWF, 2016b (left), 2010 (right). Illustrations: Erik Lieberman.
The implementation of an ecosystem approach to the
marine environment and the production of seafood
can thus help to identify trade-offs across the multiple
objectives of food security, ecosystem health and social
well-being. In addition, an ecosystem approach to
management allows decisions to be made in context,
while at the same time it reflects broader long-term
societal goals. It is therefore a key process in making
the EU 2050 vision of 'living well, within the limits of
our planet' a local reality across the diversity of the
food production activities and communities in the EU.
However the implementation of EBM in Europe and
elsewhere has been slow. An emerging message from
practitioners and researchers who are looking to make
the ecosystem approach operational is that the central
challenge today lies in understanding the impediments
to the implementation of the ecosystem approach,
rather than, for example, obtaining more information
(ICES, 2016).
Barriers to the ecosystem approach in Europe's seas
For fisheries, it has been suggested that the major
impediments to adopting EBM as part of the CFP are
the broad nature and incompatibility of environmental,
social and economic objectives and the lack of agreed
guidance on the priority to be given to objectives when
trade-offs have to be made (Jennings and Rice, 2011).
Box 4.4 illustrates the underlying tension between
concurrent objectives for the sustainable management
of fish stocks in EU waters. Different stakeholders
including fishers, company owners, processors, retailers,
managers, politicians, non-governmental organisations,
the general public, certification organisations and
scientists prioritise the outcomes of fisheries differently.
While all of these come under one unifying policy in
the EU (the CFP), their objectives and value systems
could be considered conflicting. Even among fishers —
whether commercial, recreational or artisanal — there
are differing objectives that need to be balanced (Trenkel
etal., 2015). Once the fisheries policy is considered
alongside environmental policies (i.e. the MSFD and the
nature directives), a further challenge is introduced as
the two fields operated in a compartmentalised manner
until recently (Garcia etal., 2014).
Studies also suggest that a broader strategic approach
to the implementation of EBM in Europe's seas is
missing (Jennings and Rice, 2011; Ramirez-Monsalve
etal., 2016a). The foundation of EBM is in the
objectives of the new CFP, which addresses fisheries
and aquaculture, and in the MSFD, which addresses
all uses of the sea. However, the EU and its Member
States have not yet formalised an explicit strategy for
implementing EBM in an integrated way across the
two policies. In addition, the strategic development of
aquaculture is mostly adopting a sectoral approach,
which aims to increase the sector's production and
competiveness while addressing environmental
constraints for the supply of raw material or the
operations of the production sites (EC, 2013c, 2016b;
STECF, 2014a). As such, the development of aquaculture
in the EU is likely to underplay key systemic interactions
and dependencies of the food system (e.g. those
Transforming Europe's food system
42 Seafood in Europe
Box 4.4 Achieving maximum sustainable yield in EU fisheries
The concept of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) holds that, over the long term, there is a maximum amount of fish that
can be harvested by a fishery from a stock. As part of the most recent reform of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP),
a legal obligation was introduced to manage fisheries with the objective of achieving MSY by 2015, where possible, and by
2020 at the latest for all stocks. Achieving MSY in fisheries can support the rebuilding of exploited fish populations and can
increase landings, but would also bring a variety of social and economic benefits from increased landings (World Bank and
FAO, 2009; Colloca etal., 2013). For example, direct job creation from achieving MSY in northeast Atlantic waters has been
estimated to range from about 20300 to over 64000 on- and offshore jobs (Carpenter and Esteban, 2015). Achieving MSY
could also deliver up to EUR1.5billion more in annual revenue in this area (Carpenter and Esteban, 2015).
Making MSY a reality across Europe's seas is a complex process. The EU and its Member States have often set annual
total allowable catches at a different level from scientific recommendations for MSY at the annual EU Council of Ministers
(Carpenter and Kleinjans, 2015; Veitch etal., 2015). This track record of decision-making at the level of the EU Council
reveals the political dimension of fisheries management, compared with a science-only dimension. Greater transparency
in the decision-making process of the EU Council would help improve the public debate about this crucial step for
implementing MSY across Europe's seas (Transparency International, 2016).
Obtaining MSY in practice is also challenging at the operational management level, given the multiple interactions of species
and ecosystem dynamics, and characteristics of individual fisheries. For example, achieving MSY for an individual stock
can hamper the achievement of MSY for other stocks, as it is a stock-specific property. Given that the majority of European
fisheries can be considered mixed, i.e. they catch a range of species even when targeting specific species, implementing
MSY inevitably generates compromises in fishing practices and outcomes (Rindorf etal., 2016). Studies also suggest that it is
difficult to achieve MSY with little impact on other marine populations and on the structure and function of the ecosystem
(Worm etal., 2009). The refinement and redefinition of the MSY concept, taking into consideration ecological, economic
and social concerns, was the focus of the EU 7th Framework Programme MyFish project(8) that, among other outcomes,
developed decision support tools to reflect the effects and trade-offs of implementing different MSY options.
A core aspect of implementing MSY is therefore acknowledging the trade-offs between ecosystem health, the production
of fish, and other economic and social outcomes at the appropriate level. In addition, understanding overfishing (i.e. fishing
above MSY levels) should be seen from a systems perspective, focusing on more than just recognised primary causes such
as profit maximisation or non-compliant behaviour from fishers. Implementing MSY requires the acknowledgement of and
adaptation to complex temporal and cross-scale interactions between social, economic, political and ecological factors,
which are still mostly not distinguished in fisheries or environmental management (Boonstra and Österblom, 2014).
Photo: © Stephen McGowan, 2006/Marine Photobank
Transforming Europe's food system
Seafood in Europe
related with marine and land-based feed ingredients as
explored in Section3.2). Such interactions also include
those with other policy measures such as the landing
obligation in the new CFP. The potential creation of an
aquaculture market for discards of species in fisheries
subject to this measure can deter the adoption of low
impact practices aimed at reducing discards. Such
unintended outcomes of the new landing obligation are
mostly unknown and will require careful monitoring.
The complex European marine governance system
that is currently in place is considered another key
impediment to EBM in Europe's seas. This system
is fragmented and considered to be insufficiently
coordinated to deliver EBM across marine and maritime
policies, although the regional frameworks emerging
from the new CFP and MSFD offer opportunities for
change (Ramirez-Monsalve etal., 2016a, 2016b). EBM
is a transformation from the traditional approaches
to resource management, which are mostly based
on sectoral objectives such as those of fisheries or
aquaculture, to a systems approach that aims to
optimise social, environmental and economic objectives
for the use of the ecosystem.
Transformations are a step-wise social learning
process (Olsson etal., 2010). Changing institutional
arrangements, such as the emphasis of the new CFP
and MSFD, might not be sufficient to promote EBM, as
this involves a different approach for most stakeholders
to collaborate with each other and engage with the
sea. To build transformative capacity for ecosystem
stewardship and implement EBM, a broader set of
issues needs to be addressed, such as power and
social relations, political and economic dynamics,
worldviews and cultural differences (Olsson etal., 2010;
Schultz etal., 2015). It is thus suggested that practical
experimentation may currently be a more realistic
way to make progress and develop the capacity of the
regional forums to support EBM, including the ability of
science, policy, industry and civil society stakeholders to
'co-create' (Ramirez-Monsalve etal., 2016b).
Marine protected areas: a safety net for ecosystem
health and long-term provision of seafood
Fisheries and aquaculture rely on healthy ecosystems
for the stable production of key ecosystems services
such as fish provision, either for direct consumption
or as a raw material for the feed industry. Marine
Protected Areas (MPAs) are a key policy measure
and management tool that form part of the EBM tool
box for safeguarding biodiversity and the services
that marine ecosystems provide. As such, MPAs are
essential to ensuring the long-term viability of fisheries,
but also the resources on which the food supply-chain
depends. The ecosystem approach introduced by the
MSFD and the CFP provides an opportunity to employ
a holistic approach for designing, managing and
evaluating MPA networks in Europe's seas. Although
the designation of MPAs can bring conflict to the
users of the areas, such area-based measures can be
designed as part of the solution for achieving the dual
EU policy objectives of marine food security and halting
the loss of biodiversity in Europe's seas (see Box 4.5
for an overview of the implementation of the current
network of marine protected areas in Europe's seas).
In particular, the MSFD brings provisions for the
establishment of compatible monitoring programmes,
coherent and representative networks of MPAs and
the requirement to cooperate with a marine region. It
provides a key opportunity to build on current efforts
under the nature directives and to advance further
to achieve well-managed MPA networks in the EU.
Achieving such MPA networks is critical to safeguarding
the supply of fish as food for now and for future
generations, but is also critical for the capacity of self-
renewal of the ecosystem by enhancing the resilience
of marine ecosystems. This self-renewal capacity is
all the more important given that marine ecosystems
in Europe and elsewhere are under pressure from
an increasingly complex set of interactions between
human activities and global environmental change
(EEA,2015c; UN, 2016).
Transforming Europe's food system
44 Seafood in Europe
Box 4.5 Implementing a coherent, representative and well-managed network of marine protected areas in
Europe's seas
An EU policy framework for designating MPAs is in place in Europe's seas, which includes provisions from the nature
directives (the Habitats and Birds Directives) and the MSFD. The main component of the MPA network in Europe's seas is
the Natura 2000 network, which in 2012, covered over300000km2 (4.0%) of Europe's seas. Nationally designated areas
added an additional 1.9% to this EU coverage (EEA, 2015d). Most of the Natura 2000 sites are considered multiple-use
MPAs. However, this MPA network cannot yet be considered well-managed, given that gaps still exist in terms of
representativeness, coherence and adequacy, as well as the uncertainty that exists in terms of management effectiveness
(EEA, 2015d). This might partly be because the original drivers of the Natura 2000 network do not reflect a holistic
understanding of marine ecosystems. The Natura 2000 network does not embody the principle of an EBM approach, and
was not designed to build resilience for the system as a whole.
A key shortcoming of this network appears to be the small proportion of 'no take' MPAs, i.e. marine reserves, which could
be an important measure to support the restoration of exploited fish populations. The existing marine reserves in Europe's
seas have shown significant increases in biomass, density, species richness and average size of organisms (Fenberg etal.,
2012). Currently, the reserves cover less than 0.5% of Europe's seas. Inside a marine reserve, individual fish may grow older
and larger, increasing their reproductive potential. This is highly relevant, as larger and older specimens tend to produce
more eggs and larvae, with higher survival rates than young fish. Older specimens also add to the genetic resilience of the
population (Russi etal., 2016). Marine reserves can thus be especially important for rebuilding stocks in cases where fishing
practices are leading to populations dominated by juveniles, such as with cod in the North Sea. The International Council
for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has shown that 93% of cod, one of the main species consumed in the EU, is caught
in the North Sea before it is able to reproduce (EC, 2009). In 2014, this situation appeared to have improved. It is also well
documented that marine reserves can have positive effects on fish populations both inside and outside the area, with clear
benefits for fisheries output (Birkeland and Dayton, 2005; Halpern, 2014).
Another challenge associated with the marine Natura 2000 network is that it focuses on a few, albeit rare or vulnerable,
habitats and species, and thus does not reflect the diversity of European habitats and species. Similarly, the Natura
2000 network was not designed with the purpose of protecting commercially exploited fish species or habitats of special
importance for fish species, e.g. forage or spawning areas. This leaves significant marine ecological features outside EU
conservation requirements and, as such, the potential benefits of the EU MPA network are not optimised for securing
healthy and productive ecosystems. A final hindrance of the marine Natura 2000 network is that some of the sites still
lack management plans. As such, few details on conservation objectives and relevant site-based measures to achieve
these objectives are available. This indicates that insufficient management measures have been put in place to enable the
conservation benefits of these areas to both halt the loss of marine biodiversity and improve the state of commercial fish
species (Russi etal., 2016).
Photo: EUO © OCEANA Carlos Suárez
Looking ahead — food for thought
Seafood in Europe
5 Looking ahead — food for thought
The transformation of our food system in line with
sustainability goals is necessary, as it is for other
related systems of production and consumption that
allow us to meet our needs for energy, mobility and
housing. This requires a common knowledge base to
be developed and adapted in such a way that it takes
the new rationale behind transitions decisions and
pathways into account.
The world has already agreed to a new paradigm for
sustainability in the 21st century (UN, 2015). The new
global sustainable development agenda is built on
people, the planet, prosperity and partnerships that
together aim to transform the world by 2030. Europe
has a vision of living well within the limits of our planet
by 2050 through a transition to a green economy,
centred on resource efficiency, ecosystem resilience
and human well-being and equity. To make these goals
a reality, a new sustainability narrative is needed, which
envisions our global society as an interacting, evolving
system that governments, markets and society can
influence, but which cannot be managed by 'control
and command' instruments. The food system approach
allows such a narrative to be brought to Europe's food
A systems approach to sustainability allows us
to understand how systems change and how to
intervene at leverage points (Meadows, 1999), where
a small shift can lead to fundamental changes in
the system as a whole. Interventions that target the
purpose of a system and its design are the most
powerful ones for its transformation. Yet, they are
also the most difficult to implement as they ask us to
reframe the way we look at the world and act in it, and
affect the underpinning values, goals and world views
of people that influence the system. They are also
long-term interventions, whose results tend to surface
Interventions that target the purpose of a system
are those that shape the paradigm or framework
out of which the system goals, structure, rules and
dynamics arise. In Europe, the mainstream policy
narrative suggests that growth, innovation, jobs
and competitiveness help to achieve development
goals, and will deliver subsequently on well-being
objectives. The transformation of Europe's food
system — to one that will flourish in the 21st century
society that the world and Europe envisions — would
require a different narrative. Such a narrative would
fundamentally recognise the interdependencies of
our social, technological and natural systems. In
this context, the development of a new European
sustainability strategy has begun, which better reflects
the international paradigm shift that considers people's
well-being in tandem with ecosystem health (EPSC,
2016). Adopting such a paradigm shift in Europe's
food system would entail moving beyond increased
production or food security alone, to a system whose
broader purpose would include enhanced nutrition and
the ability to operate within environmental and social
planetary boundaries.
Beyond working to change the purpose of a system,
another powerful set of interventions that can lead
to more desired system outcomes would target the
system's design. These interventions address the social
structures and institutions that manage interactions
(e.g. between actors or those related to natural
resource use) and that set standards for measures and
quantifiable parameters (e.g. indicators). Policies are
instrumental in shaping systems, as they establish a
common framework for governance and action, shape
incentives and direct research and innovation. The
current EU policy framework for food is fragmented
and is not implemented according to a food system
approach (as explored in Chapter 4). As such, the
consequences of key interactions — such as with
international trade, supply-chain actors, producer
practices and consumer choices (as explored in
Chapter 3 and related to the journey of fish to fork)
— can remain hidden. The need to re-design Europe's
food system through a common approach to its
You never change things by fighting the
existing reality. To change something, build
a new model that makes the existing model
Buckminster Fuller
Looking ahead — food for thought
46 Seafood in Europe
policies that fully incorporates both the systemic and
global dimensions of food security has already been
recognised (Maggio etal., 2015). Likewise, a review
of the current EU research and innovation policy
landscape for food security and nutrition calls for a
broader food system approach, together with greater
policy coherence and coordination encompassing food
security, public health and environmental protection
(EC, 2016d).
Transforming the food system will also require public
policy to have a ripple effect beyond policy actors or the
public policy sphere. The more public policy objectives
can be aligned with those from business and civil
society organisations, the better the chances of success
in transforming the food system to meet sustainability
goals. Emerging coalitions and partnerships of
supply-chain actors (as explored in Chapter 3 in this
report) offer policymakers an opportunity to make the
most of business innovation (e.g. business to business
investments for increased traceability) for sustainability
by engaging with these market actors. To this end,
forward-looking discussions within the EU and with
industry, researchers and society that are currently
taking place in order to future-proof Europe's food
system and achieve food and nutrition for all could
prove key (EC, 2015a).
The current societal momentum for the transformation
of Europe's food system also provides an important
opportunity to put marine and freshwater fish in its
rightful position in EU food security and nutrition
strategies, policies and programmes, as called for
internationally (CFS, 2014). A food system approach
allows fish to be framed as food rather than as a
natural resource and can support the identification
of key interactions between sea, land and actors in
the food system (such as those related to aquaculture
feed explored in Chapter 3). In addition, there is a
tendency to focus the debate on food in Europe around
terrestrial food production practices and outcomes.
Building knowledge and governance bridges between
fisheries and agriculture would enhance dialogue and
mutual learning between these traditionally separate
sectors. It would also provide a source of innovation
and collaboration that would better influence or adapt
to the supply and demand dynamics that lead to
greater sustainability.
People are at the centre of interventions that target
both the purpose and design of a system. This report
looked at the importance of adapting our models of
thinking in order to build a shared understanding of the
food system at the EU level (Chapter 4). Although not
explored in depth in this report, other recent findings
on the psychological and social foundations of human
behaviour are bringing greater awareness of the way in
which people perceive information and make decisions.
For example, it is well-known that people make most
judgments and choices automatically but the rational
view of decision-making is still often relied upon in
policymaking (van Bavel etal., 2013). Also, people
often use mental short-cuts to make complex choices,
which can lead to choice bias, so the availability of
more information is unlikely to change consumer
behaviour (Umpfenbach, 2014). Paying attention to
how humans think, and how history and context shape
thinking can improve the design and implementation of
policies. Applying behavioural insights to policymaking
could greatly improve EU policy implementation and
interventions designed to foster sustainability and
development (World Bank, 2015; Lourenço etal., 2016).
Working with human behaviour is especially important
in the context of food, since food is related to
many other interweaving aspects of our lives such
as education and culture. The issues around food
have gained a lot of traction in the public domain.
People are increasingly concerned by the social and
environmental implications of food, illustrated by
a range of mainstream books and documentaries
that have flourished in recent years. A food system
approach can focus the discussion on building
communities and nurturing a food culture, where
people are more than mere consumers, or a group
of interested resource users such as fishers and
farmers, or even business-oriented actors such as
retailers. Building community through the topic of
food connects consumers to producers, but also to
regulators and the food industry. And by doing so,
it can also improve knowledge and interest across
the board on the food we eat, with the potential
to co-create more creative, inclusive and effective
solutions for healthy and sustainable food.
Working with complexity and making it tangible is
essential if we are to find solutions to the sustainability
issues of our time. This report aims to show that
the complexity framework offered by a food system
approach is complementary to existing policy
frameworks, and can offer new ways for policymakers
and other actors to search for effective answers to
the difficult problems with our food. People will still
hold different views, but they will have a much richer
and more constructive environment for dialogue. In
addition, the science of systems and the practice of
applying it to real-world problems in order to tackle the
persistent social and environmental challenges of our
societies is flourishing (for examples, see Hassan, 2014;
Scharmer and Kaufer, 2013; Sinha and Draimin, 2016;
Narberhaus and Sheppard, 2015).
Embracing complexity goes beyond research and
policy alone. It is a process that includes analysing
Looking ahead — food for thought
Seafood in Europe
how one relates to oneself and to others, and it
involves significant efforts across actors and society.
Applying this new type of knowledge in order to for
make sense of the world and support transformations
will require learning and experimentation. Perhaps
the late Donnella Meadows, a pioneering system
thinker, put it best in terms of what it means to work
with system change: 'There are no cheap tickets to
mastery. You have to work hard at it, whether that
means rigorously analysing a system or rigorously
casting off your own paradigms and throwing yourself
into the humility of Not Knowing' (Meadows, 1999).
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Seafood in Europe
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