Vision Food from the Sea offers future prospects for North Sea fisheries | News item

News item | 08-03-2024 | 13:11

Minister Piet Adema of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) today sent his Vision on Food from the Sea and Large Waters to the House of Representatives. In doing so, he offers future prospects for the North Sea fisheries, which are facing major challenges. The vision focuses on the importance of food extraction from the sea. This requires space at sea, but fishermen must also further reduce their impact on nature. The vision also points to the need for innovative fishing techniques, opportunities for growing seaweed and mussels and the use of space in wind farms for food extraction.

Minister Adema: “I understand the concerns of the fishermen. The fishing industry in the Netherlands is going through a difficult time and the future is uncertain. Fortunately, there are many fishermen who want to continue. For them, the vision offers prospects for a sustainable and economically healthy sector. After all, we would like to continue eating healthy food from our North Sea and large bodies of water. And fishermen simply belong to the Netherlands.”

Safeguarding food extraction from the sea

Traditional fishing has come under pressure in recent years due to, among other things, Brexit, high fuel prices and the arrival of new nature and wind farms. Not allowing pulse fishing in Europe and the recently established low sole quota also have an impact on the sector. Last year, 51 fishermen who wanted to quit registered for the voluntary restructuring scheme.

The vision is intended for fishermen who still see a future and offers them economic prospects for innovative and sustainable food extraction in the North Sea and larger commodities, including the Wadden Sea, Southwest Delta and the IJsselmeer. This not only concerns wild-caught fish, but also the cultivation of seaweed and shellfish. The emphasis in the vision is on safeguarding the social importance of food extraction from the sea. It supplies healthy and sustainable proteins with a relatively low CO2 footprint and comes from close by.

Area for fishing

Preserving space for fishing is a priority. The government will give the importance of food extraction from the sea a more equal place in the choices for the use of space in the North Sea. For example, when it comes to the construction of wind farms. There is closer cooperation with other fishing countries in Europe. Because the pressure on space also plays a role there. Furthermore, it is being investigated whether active fishing is possible in the wind farms of the future. Now only passive fishing with static nets and aquaculture is allowed there.

There must also be more scientific clarity about the effects of bottom-disturbing fishing on the seabed. Research must be used to determine where this is and is no longer possible. A large part of the Dutch fleet fishes for flatfish, such as sole and plaice, using bottom-disturbing techniques. This fishery depends for its survival on innovations that significantly reduce fuel consumption and the impact on nature.

Innovative entrepreneurship

The future ‘entrepreneur at sea’ does not focus on one or a few fish species, but is flexible and adapts to changing circumstances. According to the vision, the government should also support entrepreneurs who are looking for collaboration and new revenue models, for example by supplying directly to consumers or contributing to research using digital techniques. It is also examined where the cultivation of shellfish and seaweed at sea is economically feasible, without harming nature or even contributing to nature recovery.

Finally, the vision emphasizes the importance of European cooperation. For example, the Netherlands wants to explore whether there is interest in an international innovation network and, together with other countries and the European Commission, to examine whether the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is sufficiently tailored to the transition facing the fishery.

Minister Adema’s vision was developed in consultation with fishermen and other parties involved. The vision has also been discussed in the North Sea consultation, in which the government and fisheries, nature organizations, energy and shipping sectors work together on major challenges in the North Sea. It is up to the new cabinet to work on an implementation agenda based on this vision.

Fisheries chain and communities

The minister is also working on future prospects for fishing activities on shore and the preservation of culture in fishing communities. He has made 30 million euros available for this purpose, which will be co-financed by the regions with at least the same amount. The Fisheries Administrative Platform, in which the fishing regions are represented, is currently finalizing the plan with the ministry to support the fishing chain and communities.