By John Bostock & Sónia Seixas.
Global aquaculture production now provides around 50 % of human seafood consumption and with expected population growth and increased per capita seafood consumption, production is expected to rise from the current 63 million tonnes to almost 100 million tonnes by 2030. In contrast, aquaculture production in the European Union is relatively low, having more or less stagnated since 2000, despite the EU being the largest global importer of seafood. However, a new strategy for aquaculture development is in place with every EU Member State committed to preparing a national plan. This will involve greater focus on current constraints and issues that need to be overcome through innovation and engagement with a wide range of stakeholders. This will require the input of research, knowledge exchange and human capacity building. The AQUA-TNET thematic network for lifelong learning in aquaculture, fisheries and aquatic resource management has brought together European organisations engaged in these activities since it first started in 1996. This paper aims to present some of the analyses and thinking of that network in relation to the role of education and training in strengthening the human capital of the European aquaculture sector as a contribution to overall sector development. The approach is therefore that of a review article, drawing on a diverse range of previous work to identify themes and trends to help inform future research and activities. Further and higher education institutions play a partial but nonetheless significant role in aquaculture sector development. When considering future contributions to the sector, account needs to be taken of the changes taking place within the tertiary education sector as new technologies, global competition and government policies challenge the status quo of current organisation and practice. Though these present risks, they also offer considerable opportunities to build new collaborations, adopt new patterns of teaching and learning and perhaps apply new frameworks for accrediting learning and skills that could benefit the aquaculture sector. With funding from the European Commission Lifelong Learning Programme for AQUA-TNET having come to an end in 2014, future work of the network in promoting and enabling innovation will need to be reconfigured around other types of sector organisations. It may also be the right time to look towards a more global platform for aquaculture education and knowledge exchange.