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2.1 Characteristics of production in the region
2.2 Regional production data
2.3 Production systems and practices in the region
2.4 Producers in the region
2.5 Organizations of producers
2.6 Financial investment by public and private enterprises
2.7 Technical assistance projects in the sub-sector
2.8 Capital assistance projects in the sub-sector

2.1 Characteristics of production in the region

Aquaculture in this large region is characterized by its diversity with regard to its production and the many practices used. On the other hand production continues to focus on comparatively few species, most of which have been important in the fisheries of the region for centuries.

In the Eastern countries and the USSR, many of which are land-locked or have little coastal water, production is centred on the traditional freshwater food fishes, such as the carps. These are highly desirable and marketable, and provide a popular alternative to meat. The production of common carp is carried out mainly in earthen ponds, but almost all countries active in carp production have extensive programmes for restocking natural and artificial waters. Furthermore, the interest in these warm water fishes, and the success with a simple technology which fitted well with rural animal husbandry, has encouraged the integration of fish farming with the production of land animals and poultry. Integrated farming is highly skilled and established in a number of Eastern countries, but it attracts little attention in the Northwest.

The extensive freshwater resources throughout the region have been exploited for the production of trout for over a hundred years. Every country practices some trout culture to some degree in a range of facilities, including earthen ponds, raceways, and small water bodies.

As a whole, the region has a significant interest in the use of aquaculture for culture-based fisheries, and more recently for ranching. The enhancement of natural fisheries in large inland water bodies is mainly practised in some way in almost all countries of the region. In the Northwest, the most common species produced and released are the salmonids (salmon, brown trout and whitefish) and other coarse species (pike and pike-perch) primarily for supporting recreational fisheries. In Eastern Europe, the most common species are the carps and whitefish, salmonids (trout), and sturgeons, which are all used to annually restock inland water bodies, primarily for commercial production, but also for recreation. In addition, particularly in the Nordic region, there are programmes of enhancement to compensate for the loss of aquatic resources through human interventions, such as the construction of hydro-electric stations and dams. Most of the compensatory programmes concern the migratory species, such as the salmonids.

Although the Northwestern countries do not have the same traditions of fish culture which are characteristic of the Eastern countries, they are now all highly active in commercial production. Because of the many natural resources of sheltered coastal bays and estuaries, their interest in aquaculture has centred on high-valued and commercial marine and brackishwater species, such as Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout (reared in saltwater), the flatfish species, the molluscs (oysters and mussels) and the crustaceans (marine lobster). In freshwater, the interest has been in rainbow trout and crustaceans (prawns and crayfish).

Many of the production practices in the Northwest are technically advanced. For example, Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout are cultivated in cages in the sea, and there are now a number of types of floating and submersible cages for both sheltered and offshore environments. Large land-based operations have recently been established using geothermal energy in Iceland.

Aquaculture of molluscs has rejuvenated traditional farming in brackishwater coastal areas of the Northwest. Many of these natural fisheries have been in decline for decades because of pollution.

Although there is a small industry in Northwestern countries for the collection of edible marine algae, there has been no interest in their commercial cultivation.

2.2 Regional production data

A summary of production data for the region in 1986 has been published by FAO in 1989. The species of importance for aquaculture in the two regions of Europe (Eastern and Northwestern countries) are few (Table 3). The total production in 1986 was 703 000 t, of which 82.5% was finfish and 17.5% molluscs. This is about 9% of the total world production of fish and shellfish. From the data it is clear that production in the Eastern countries is 61.9% of the total production in the region.

Finfish production is dominated by the carp species, mainly common carp (Cyprinus carpio), and the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). These are followed by the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), farmed in seawater after the juvenile stage, which takes place in freshwater. After these three there are only about 10 finfish species which are produced, and in comparatively small production quantities. Some of them, however, are of local or national importance.

Few species of molluscs are produced in the region. There are only three species of commercial interest, namely the flat oyster (Ostrea edulis), the Pacific cupped oyster (Crassostrea gigas), and the blue mussel (Mytilus edulis). Most mussels are cultured in the Northwestern countries, although Bulgaria reports mussel production in the Black Sea.

National production data for the Eastern European countries in 1985 are given in Table 4. The USSR reports the largest production, namely a total of 305 000 t of finfish. The other Eastern countries together produced 130 397 t. The largest producer was Romania with 38 000 t. The total production and production per caput are summarized as follows:

Total production

Production per caput


305 000



38 025



21 251



20 366



20 112



18 587



12 134


National production data for the Northwestern countries in 1986 are given in Table 5. The Netherlands has the highest production, with 89 250 t, followed by Norway with 50 162 t. There are some countries which annually produce in the range of 10 000 to 45 000 t (Denmark, Finland, the FRG, Ireland, and the UK). The countries with production less than 10 000 t are Austria, Belgium, Faeroes, Iceland, Sweden, and Switzerland. In some countries (especially Norway) the production is expected to increase due to the present expansion of salmon culture. In 1989 Norway expects to produce about 120 000 t of salmon, and in 1990 more is forecast.

Production per caput (kg) ranged from 0.04 to 2.2 for the (in ascending order) the UK, Belgium, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Iceland, the FRG, and Finland; from 3.6 to 4.0 for Ireland and Denmark; from 6.2 to 12.1 for the Netherlands and Norway; and 54.8 for the Faeroes, due to its small population.

The farming of carp has a long tradition in Europe and dates back many centuries. Production is estimated to have doubled during the last decade and now totals about 370 000 t. Accurate numbers are not available as the FRG and the USSR do nor distinguish between different cultured species. The common carp (Cyprinus carpio) is the principal species farmed, with Chinese carps (bighead and silver carps, Hypophthalmichthys spp.) and grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) less important.

The production of salmonids is dominated by the culture of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). In every country of Europe rainbow trout, a species introduced in the nineteenth century from North America, is farmed. Most trout production is in freshwater. The main production occurs in Denmark (20 500 t), Finland (11 000 t), the FRG (7 900 t), and Norway (5 142 t). In 1986 the total production in the region was 57 338 t, and this has remained reasonably constant each year. Most trout are grown to 200-350 g pan size but there is now a trend to raise 1-4 kg fish for both fresh and smoked products.

The rapidly increasing amount of farmed Atlantic salmon is the most conspicuous feature of the latest development of the European aquaculture industry. During the 1960s British and Norwegian researchers first raised Atlantic salmon in sea cages. In 1986 the total production in Europe was 58 981 t, of which Norway produced 45 675 t, and the UK, about 10 000 t. The production in 1988 in Norway was 80 000 t. The UK, Iceland, Ireland and the Faeroes are increasing their production, the 1987 figure was above 60 000 t, which is about five times the wild catch in the North Atlantic. The preliminary figures for 1988 indicate a production of almost 110 000 t, and the forecast for 1989 is almost 175 000 t.

Other finfish produced, although in comparatively small quantities, are eel (Anguilla anguilla), turbot (Scophthalmus maximus) cod (Gadus morhua), mullet (Mugil spp.), European catfish (Silurus glanis), African catfish (Clarias batrachus), channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus), tilapia (Sarotherodon sp.), pike-perch (Stizostedion lucioperca), pike (Esox lucius), and various salmonids such as sea trout (Salmo trutta), brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) and Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus). The various species of whitefish (Coregonus spp.) are mainly produced for stocking natural waters.

The cultivation of molluscs is a substantial part of European aquaculture. There is a large production of bivalves in the Netherlands, although less than the production in neighbouring France and Spain. The production of blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) was 121 367 t in the region, of which the Netherlands produced 85 896 t, the FRG 24 000 t, and Ireland 10 615 t. There is also a small production of European flat oyster, Ostrea edulis, in the Netherlands and Ireland, and of Pacific cupped oyster, Crassostrea gigas, in Ireland and the UK.

2.3 Production systems and practices in the region

In the last century most finfish was produced in freshwater earthen ponds. The extensive system was generally used, with no supplementary feeding. In the 1930s and 1940s fish farming in the Northwestern countries began to adopt more intensive systems, and in the 1960s the first sea cages were used. By the late 1970s, the volume of fish produced in both marine and freshwater cages exceeded that produced in ponds in many countries in the west. However, Denmark, which has the largest production of trout, continues to produce the largest part in ponds.

The most important practice in Eastern Europe, as well as some Northwestern countries, like Denmark, is production in earthen ponds. Recently there have been developments toward more intensive systems and mechanization, and toward polyculture by increasing natural production in ponds through the use of organic manures. Integrated fish-cum-duck culture technology has been elaborated and successfully applied, especially in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and the GDR.

One variation has been the utilization of geothermal waters for fish farming to accelerate growth. The use of waste heat water has become very important in both sub-regions.

Production in cages now dominates in Western countries, and is an important part of all fish culture in the GDR and the USSR. However, according to FAO statistics which are received from governments, only pond culture is used in the GDR.

Traditional raceways are reported to be in wide use in Austria, Denmark, Finland, and Hungary. In some cases this is no more than a rapid flow-through system in earthen ponds, but in others the practice is to use concrete channels and troughs.

Many production trials have tried a recirculating system for fish in Europe. In Sweden, for example, three systems have been tried by commercial companies, but without commercial success. Only smaller operations in eel culture are still operating intensive recirculating units.

The latest developments in salmon culture are highly intensive, with variations in technical applications. Principally these are individual floating cage units, in sizes ranging from 100 m3 to several thousand m3, some of which are constructed as floating complexes or platforms. A number of such systems are now being used in offshore waters, together with units using converted oil platforms.

In many countries, such as Norway and the UK (Scotland), the sites for cage complexes are limited by legislation, rather than geography. There is thus a tendency to locate the fish farm in offshore waters using seaworthy constructions capable of withstanding rough weather.

One country with large areas of land available for producing salmon is Iceland. Many of the farms have large outdoor tanks with continuous water flow. Seawater is pumped from wells close to the shore and filtered through sand and gravel to avoid bacteria and toxic producing micro-algae in the units. The production capacity of land-based fish farms in Iceland is 2 100 t (volume 84 000 m1) compared to offshore farms with a production of 5 500 t (volume 366 000 m3), totalling 77 farms (1989).

The present area of fish ponds in Europe is difficult to estimate. For Eastern Europe it was estimated in 1984 to be:



22 400


53 000


21 151


60 000


60 000

Additional data (1988) include:


16 262


9 293

Enhancement, by definition, is the extensive farming of natural or artificial water bodies by stocking juveniles followed by harvesting through communal fishing. In inland waters, fishery enhancement has been a common form of fisheries management for a long time. A variation of natural enhancement is ranching, usually with migratory species, where harvesting of adults is conducted where the juveniles were earlier released.

In Europe the stocking of juvenile fish, molluscs, and crustacean species occurs both in fresh and marine waters. The artificial rearing of salmon smolts for restocking rivers flowing into the Baltic is the most important fishery enhancement project in Europe. Originally the rivers around the Baltic produced about 10 million smolts annually. The building of several hydroelectric stations and dams in the 1940s-1960's made natural spawning impossible.

Sweden was the first country in the 1960s to enforce legislation to compensate for the loss of natural resources through the building of hatcheries and release of young salmon and sea trout smolts. About 1.5 million smolts were released every year. Gradually the other countries (mainly Finland) increased their share, and since 1984 they have released more smolts than Sweden. In 1987 their total was 3.2 million and Sweden's was 2.3 million smolts. The large number of hatchery-reared smolts is now considered a threat to the remaining wild salmon which still spawn in about 20 rivers around the Baltic. The reason is that the increasing numbers of salmon in the Baltic have produced higher fishing intensity at sea, with now more than 50% of salmon in the area taken by fishermen. The higher fishing intensity has greatly influenced the number of spawning fish returning to their home rivers. Consequently there is a threat to the remaining gene pool of wild salmon in the Baltic.

Three more countries, the Faeroes, Iceland, and Ireland, are presently producing large numbers of salmon smolts. These are used partly for improving the salmon fisheries. In Iceland there are 15 registered salmon ranching stations. In 1988 a total of 180 t of salmon returned to the release sites. No salmon fishing at sea is permitted.

Stocking juvenile cod (Gadus morhua) along the coast of Norway, and juvenile lobster (Homarus vulgaris) along the coasts of Norway and the UK (and France) has been carried out in recent years. Both activities are experiments in sea ranching and are not yet proven to be economically viable.

In some countries of the region the stocking of freshwater fish is for both commercial and sport fisheries. In Finland, for example, more than 20 species of reared juveniles are stocked in rivers and lakes to enhance the native stocks. Nearly 39 million young fish were released in 1983. Six different species of coregonids (32 million), two species of salmon (1.8 million), two species of trout (2.5 million), and pike (2.1 million) were stocked. Other important species were grayling, lake trout, pike-perch and rainbow trout. Hungary produces and releases both 1-year and 2-year old carps for its large recreational fishery.

In the USSR the sturgeon fishery is of great importance. About 20 000 t are caught in the Caspian Sea, which is more than 70% of the world catch. The building of hydroelectric dams on the Don and Volga rivers, as well as pollution problems, has increased emphasis on enhancement. By the year 2000 production is planned to increase from 20 000 t in the Caspian Sea to 50 000 t. In order to achieve this goal, the planned annual release of young fish is 10 to 15 million Huso huso, 130-135 million Acipenser sturio, and 290-300 million Acipenser stellatus.

Enhancement for commercial and recreational fisheries is an important effort in many other countries. For example, in Sweden river eel, trout, Arctic char, grayling, brook trout, and pike-perch are released, although on a smaller scale than in Finland. Switzerland, and to a lesser extent Austria, both release many tens of millions of cultured juvenile coregonids to support the small but useful fisheries of the alpine lakes.

The production of bivalves in the region is predominantly carried out in an intensive system, although the animals utilize naturally produced feed. There are two principal practices, namely on-bottom culture and off-bottom culture. The blue mussel is cultivated mainly on-bottom, as practised in the Netherlands, although some countries like Norway, Sweden, and the UK report off-bottom culture. Sweden has developed a hanging technique using longlines, which is labour-saving and highly mechanized. In several countries juvenile mussels are transported from areas which favour initial settlement to areas which favour growth.

Scallops and oysters are normally produced on-bottom, but again the UK reports some off-bottom culture. The enhancement of the scallop fishery is an important joint aquaculture-fishery programme in France to increase production and establish a basic methodology for the region. It is based on spat production in a hatchery, or the importation of spat from Ireland and the UK, cultured up to 3 cm in size in baskets, and seeded in appropriate areas where subsequent growth occurs.

In some countries of Northwestern Europe new techniques are being used to rear freshwater crayfish. The main interest is focused on the native species, Astacus astacus, and an introduced species, Pacifastacus leniusculus. As the climate is cold in this sub-region for rapid growth, heated water is sometimes used for hatching the eggs and rearing the juveniles. Hatching takes place from February to June depending on the technique, and in May or June the juveniles are stocked in ponds, tanks, and lakes. This is about 1-2 months earlier than the natural hatching time. With this technique it is possible to reach the commercial size (9 cm) in ponds after a period of 1½-2 years.

2.4 Producers in the region

In 1988 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) carried out a survey of aquaculture among its member countries, including the numbers of producers and facilities. The interpretation of the numbers collected by the survey is not always clear. Many businesses operate more than one farm; some countries require a license to farm a specific species only, and others require a license for each farm. The same farm often produces several related species, specifically the salmonids and the molluscs. Similarly employment figures may include the owner-operator himself and his hired staff. Some numbers obviously include part-time staff, while others obviously do not.

In Belgium there are 36 production farms, 22 for trout and 14 producing mainly carp but also some mixed species, such as tilapia, tench, and roach. Between 100 and 200 persons are employed in aquaculture production. Denmark has about 603 farms producing trout, of which 575 are in freshwater; 32 farms produce eels. About 640 people are employed in the industry. In the FGR there are about 13 000 people employed in the industry, but only about 10% are employed full time. There are 1 946 farms producing trout, 2 for eels, 5 538 for carps, 4 for oysters, 11 for mussels, and 2 for cockles. The Netherlands has 12 farms producing trout, 13 producing eels, about 45 for catfish, 26 for oysters, 77 for mussels, 25 for cockles, and a number reported to be producing shrimp. Some 338 persons are employed in the industry.

Finland now has over 176 marine fish farms, mostly producing salmonids, and 285 freshwater farms producing whitefish, salmonids, pike, grayling, carp, and crayfish. Between 1 000 and 3 000 persons are employed in the sector. In Norway 728 licenses have been issued for farming of salmon and trout, and 782 licenses for mussels and oysters, but not all license-holders are in production. About 2 550 persons are directly employed in the industry. There are over 500 license-holders in Sweden, but not all are active. There are 13 farms producing salmon, 241 for trout, 5 for eels, 4 for oysters, 5 for mussels, 18 producing other species of fish and 3 producing other species of shellfish. About 320 persons are fully employed in the industry.

The industry in Iceland employs about 182 persons, working on 106 salmon farms, 19 trout farms, and a mussel farm.

The 145 farms in Ireland directly employ 566 persons in the production of salmon (50 farms), trout (19), eel (1), oysters (48), mussels (41), clams (1), and other species of fish (5). There are also 10 other farms only producing salmon smolts. In the UK there are currently some 900 fish farming businesses operating some 1 400 sites, and employing about 3 000 persons. Of these businesses there are 323 for salmon, 484 for trout, 3 for eel, 92 for carp, and the rest involved in the production of oysters, mussels, and clams.

In Hungary there are 22 State farms producing the primary carps, trout and eels. There are 15 leasehold Fishery Cooperatives and 18 Agricultural Cooperatives active in fish production. The National Anglers Union (MOHOSZ) also has its own production facilities.

2.5 Organizations of producers

There are many national organizations for aquaculture producers in the Northwestern countries for the marketing of products. In Norway there is just one national organization for all farmed fish and shellfish products. This is the Fiskeoppdretternes Salgslag which has a monopoly to handle all farmed products. In the other countries the associations are independent with respect to the commodity. For example, in the UK there is the British Trout Farmers' Association, and in Finland the Lohikunta Cooperative has been successful in marketing rainbow trout within and outside the country. In some cases private companies compete with each other for markets.

In most countries the farmers have associations which are designed to take care of all producers' interests, such as the Finnish Trout Farmers' Association. In Sweden there is the Vattenbrukarnas Riksförbund for the producers, but the marketing of cultured fish and shellfish products is handled by many competing companies. Consequently the volume of products handled by each company is comparatively small.

There is one international organization of producers active in the region. This is the Fédération Européenne des Salmoniculteurs (FES), and it includes all the national salmonid culturists' federations. It assists members in dealing with differences in national legislation, and in regional trade of salmonids (in which the trade in live fish is an essential component).

In most of the Eastern European countries aquaculture is under the auspices of the appropriate government departments, usually the Ministries of Agriculture and Food, with the exception of the USSR where it is in a separate Ministry of Fisheries. All rights to aquaculture production and marketing of the products are controlled and invariably conveyed to agricultural cooperatives. State farms, sport fishing societies, and other bodies. Cooperatives, for the most part, have the most latitude in independent organization and marketing, but the prices of fish are invariably regulated.

2.6 Financial investment by public and private enterprises

A considerable variety of approaches to financial investment is evident in the region because of the range of government social organizations and legal systems. Public investment is evident in the Eastern European sub-region and the USSR to some degree where production projects are financed entirely by the government and operated within a public institution. This investment is an important component of aquaculture in the entire region, as the combined contribution of Eastern Europe and the USSR is over 60% of total production. It comes through the State Farm and Cooperative systems organized in the countries concerned, and in the public institutions which operate facilities, such as hatcheries and research centres. The existence, organization, and financing of cooperatives are entirely controlled by governments, although in some countries, such as Hungary, the cooperatives have some independence in financial development decisions.

In the Northwestern sub-region public involvement plays an important role through the semi-public sector. Invariably it is in the form of equity in the hands of government agencies, in facilities built and operated by private investors. This is a common practice for new ventures in the region not producing salmon, for example, marine fish and bivalve farming offshore.

Governmental and international subsidies in one form or another, either non-reimbursable investment grants, or soft loans for both investment and operating capital, have been the principal support to aquaculture development in the region. This is because aquaculture is recognized by many national and regional authorities as a small-business opportunity for fishermen and family entrepreneurs, and it creates employment and industry in areas which are economically depressed and remote. This has secondary benefits in the form of tourism. These small entrepreneurs do not have the capital or capacity to invest alone, particularly in risky new ventures, and therefore financial aid is needed to help them create business and employment on site.

Such subsidies are arranged both at the international and national levels. One particular example is that of EEC countries, where investors have to apply first for a national subsidy before they have access (as a second step) to direct EEC subsidies. Amounts vary according to the country and region. In areas where aquaculture is already doing well, the accumulated effects of grants, soft loans, and premiums for job creation can remain less than 20% of the structural investment of plant. In high priority areas, such as hatcheries, it can be as high as 70%. Council Regulation No. 4028/86, on Community Actions for Improvement of Structures in the Fishing and Aquaculture Sectors, contains an improved plan for aquaculture investment which provides grants of 25-40% of the investment cost.

In 1987 a total of 137 aquaculture structural projects were granted financial aid by the EEC. The FRG received 8, the Netherlands 2, Ireland 9, and the UK 6. Approval varied from construction of hatcheries to farms for salmon, sea bream, eels, clams, and oysters. In 1989 there were 21 grants valued at ECU 2.19 million. These went to Denmark (3), the FRG (3), Ireland (4), the Netherlands (3) and the UK (8).

Investment in the sector has also been encouraged by public funds as part of regional economic development programmes for remote and economically depressed areas of certain countries, such as Norway, Sweden, and the UK (Scotland).

In Scotland the Highlands and Islands Development Board has been responsible for assisting farmers with grants for planning and construction. In addition, the Board takes a position of equity through direct assistance packages to farms, and subsequently sells back the shareholding to the company once profitability has been established.

The Irish Sea Fisheries Board operates an aquaculture grant scheme providing aid for both pilot projects and commercial projects. Pilot projects are eligible for grants of 50% of the cost of fixed assets and commercial projects up to 10% within a certain limit. Projects can also qualify for a 40% EEC grant.

2.7 Technical assistance projects in the sub-sector

There are no technical assistance projects for producers in the region supported by international organizations.

2.8 Capital assistance projects in the sub-sector

There are no capital assistance projects for producers in the region supported by international organizations.

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