The first issue of the annual EU Fish Market Report provides a complete overview of seafood (wild caught and farmed products) consumption, trade and production in the EU, based on data available from October 2013. It reveals that the EU is the largest importer of seafood products, making up 24% of the total value of world fish trade.
The EU is a major fish market: in 2011, annual consumption per capita was 24.5kg, a total of 12.3 million tonnes, representing €52.2 billion. However, consumption varies considerably from one member state to another. Northern member states buy more processed fish while those in the south prefer fresh fish products. Eastern European countries are still below the EU average but are registering increased consumption. The report states that 75% of fish eaten in the EU comes from wild fishing and consumption of farmed products decreased by 5% in 2011: it underlines that “this could be a consequence of reduced EU aquaculture production and diminished imports of farmed products in particular pangasius.”
The report highlights that EU seafood self-sufficiency remained stable at around 45% between 2008 and 2011, meaning that more than half of the seafood consumed in Europe is imported. In terms of value, shrimp is now the leading imported species, although tuna, cod and salmon are still the main species consumed in the EU.
EU imports grew at a substantial rate of 3% in value between 2011 and 2012, reaching €19.2 billion. Norway and China are the main EU suppliers: Norway for farmed salmon and cod, and China for processed white fish. Nowadays, most of the fish products imported into the EU from China are filleted; the value of these imports strongly increased (+15%) between 2009 and 2012.
The majority of tuna consumed in Europe is caught by the French and Spanish fleets that land the biggest part of their catches (fresh or frozen) close to the fishing areas in third countries (the Seychelles, Mauritius and Ecuador), for subsequent export to the EU.
It should be noted that the EU also exports tuna and small pelagics to some ACP countries. In 2012, more than 200,000 tonnes of frozen skipjack and yellowfin tuna were exported by Spain and France, mostly to Mauritius, Seychelles and Côte d’Ivoire; and 94,000 tonnes of small pelagics (e.g. blue whiting) were exported by Ireland and the Netherlands, at an average price of €0.60/kg, to Nigeria and Cameroon.
This first report produced by the EU’s recently established European Market Observatory (EUMOFA) confirms some trends and analysis on fish consumption and imports presented in other traditional reports, such as the annual European Association of Fish Importers and Processors’ (AIPCE) Finfish report. However, it also includes some new aspects of importance for future ACP–EU fish trade relations, such as details and analysis of EU fish exports to ACP countries. The EUMOFA report provides valuable information about the quantities and prices of tuna and small pelagic exports to ACP countries, which should help ACP countries such as Nigeria, which recently decided to ban small pelagic imports, to better anticipate the consequences of potential changes to this pattern. A similar tool should gradually be developed in Africa, using not only existing export/import data for the main fish trade partners (e.g. EU, USA), but also data regarding regional and informal fish trade.