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Sustainable Fisheries


Analysis of economic performance of the EU aquaculture sector together with the STECF

The EU aquaculture sector reached 1.2 million tonnes in sales volume and €4.1 billion in turnover, in 2018. This corresponds to an increase of 1% in sales volume and 6% in turnover mostly due to increasing prices compared to 2017 as the production volume was almost the same as the year before. Compared to 2016, the increase in sales volume was 2%, whereas the turnover increased 11%. The estimates of the production volume and value are based on data collected under the DCF and the EU-MAP complemented with Eurostat and FAO data to provide a comprehensive overview of the aquaculture sector for all EU27 MS. EU aquaculture production is mainly concentrated in four countries: Spain (27%), France (18%), Italy (12%), and Greece (11%), making up 69% of the sales weight. These four countries are furthermore covering 62% of the turnover in EU27.

The total number of enterprises in EU is estimated to be around 15 thousand. More than 80% of the enterprises in the aquaculture sector are micro-enterprises, employing less than 10 employees.

The number of employees and full time equivalents (FTE) in EU was estimated to be 69 thousand and 39 thousand, respectively, in 2018. The degree of specialization slightly decreased from 2017 to 2018, which is considered the effect of the increasing contribution from the shellfish sector resulting in a decrease in the ratio between employees and FTE’s. The use of part time labour contributes significantly to the workforce in the European aquaculture sector. The average yearly wage was €25 700, corresponding to an 11% increase compared to 2017.

Profitability for the EU aquaculture sector was positive in 2018, however the Gross Value Added decreased by 8% and EBIT decreased with 23%. The labour productivity decreased by 3%.

The EU aquaculture sector has three main production sectors: Marine fish, Shellfish and Freshwater fish production. The marine sector is the most important economically and generated the largest turnover of €1 811 million, followed by the shellfish sector with €1 266 million and the freshwater sector with €1 016 million.

The main species produced in terms of value are rainbow trout and European seabass, whereas mussels dominate in weight. In the marine sector, Greece is the main producer of seabream and seabass covering 53% of the value.

In the shellfish sector, France and Spain are the most important countries in terms of production volume and value, employment and numbers of enterprises. France is the main producer of oysters covering 86% of the total production, whereas Spain is the main producer of Mediterranean mussels covering 50% of the volume. The main producer of clam is Italy covering 87% of the production.

The main species produced in freshwater is trout in terms of volume 53% and value 56%. The most important producers in terms of weight are Denmark (25%), Italy (21%), and France (20%). Carp is another important species mostly produced in Eastern Europe, where the main producer reporting under DCF are Hungary and Romania.

The Covid-19 outbreak has shocked the economic activities and aquaculture is not an exception. The results from the different studies with the selected groups within this analysis point to a decrease in all income sources and an increase in all cost items. The most affected segment appears to be shellfish, at least in the decrease of incomes, as costs have not increased as much as in the other segments. Freshwater aquaculture follows in the rank of impacted segments and marine farming stands as the less affected industries. Although the important differences across species, industries and countries, the combination of decreased incomes and increased costs always is a challenge to the profitability in the sector.

The analysis of social data shows that the persons employed in the sector are primarily male (76%) and that the age class 40-65 constitutes about 43% of total employment. Education level shows large differences among MS’s, the production technology used and production sectors. The majority (83%) of people employed in the aquaculture sector are nationals of their own country, whereas the rest mainly comes from other EU MS’s. This is true for all technologies and production segments as well. The high share of national employment is in line with the findings for the fish processing industry.


Further reads:

  • latest Economic Report on the EU Aquaculture sector [here]
  • more detailed and specific numbers, please access the data dissemination [here]