Fish Farming - Are We Doing the 'Right Research'?

  Pat the Cope Gallagher MEP and Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute at European Parliament in Brussels. Photograph: European ParliamentA critical assessment and evaluation of current EU research programmes in aquaculture against identified problems and barriers, together with the setting up of a Scientific Committee for Aquaculture Research to advise key European decision-makers were two of the recommendations made by Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO of Ireland’s Marine Institute in Brussels today (Tuesday 23rd February). Dr. Heffernan was speaking to the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries during its session “A Sustainable Future for Aquaculture.”  

Quoting the introduction to the 2009 EU Aquaculture Strategy, Dr. Heffernan said that production from Europe’s aquaculture industry, which represents a turnover of around €3 billion per annum and supports 65,000 jobs across the 27 Member States, has ‘stagnated’ in stark contrast to a global growth rate in aquaculture production of 6-8% per annum. To overcome this problem, Dr. Heffernan suggested that Europe’s aquaculture research effort be refocused to address priority problems and overcome real barriers.  

“We need to know that we are delivering ‘the right research’,” said Dr. Heffernan. “This can best be done by establishing a Scientific Committee for Aquaculture Research to advise EU decision-makers on the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) Theme Two Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Biotechnology Committee.”  

Dr. Heffernan also said that greater emphasis needed to be placed on research in the area of governance in support of evidence-based policy and decision-making regarding aquaculture development, and that better links should be developed between the various EU support schemes for aquaculture – including Structural Funds, Research Funds, Regional Funds and Innovation Funds.  

“Research, Technology and Innovation can make a significant contribution to the sustainable development of the European aquaculture sector and EU research funding must be increased in volume and scope, particularly the 7th Framework Programme,” said Dr. Heffernan. “But that research must be focussed on answering the real and immediate problems of industry. Hence my call for better co-ordination and the answer to the question ‘are we doing the right research?’”