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1. Characteristics and trends of national aquaculture

1.1 Overall situation
1.2 Lakes, rivers and reservoirs (extensive aquaculture)
1.3 Intensive and semi-intensive inland aquaculture (including integrated aquaculture)
1.4 Aquaculture inside coastal lagoons3
1.5 Land-based coastal aquaculture
1.6 In-shore aquaculture
1.7 Off-shore aquaculture

1.1 Overall situation

Commercial freshwater aquaculture in the Mediterranean countries started at the end of the last century. Cold water salmonids, principally Oncorhynchus mykiss and Salmo trutta, are the most important group amongst the aquaculture production of France, Italy, Spain and Turkey. Salmonids are still considered a middle-high value product, commercialised, fresh or processed, destined for their domestic markets, but also exported. The high volume of this production is also its major constraint because of the progressive saturation of the demand. A slow increase in production is, nevertheless, still foreseen.

Warmwater freshwater species (originally based on common carp, to which introduced Chinese carps and tilapia were later added) represent the major aquaculture production in Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Israel and Egypt and are almost totally consumed domestically. In the three European countries of this group the production declined sharply due to the political transition period, and only recently showed a positive trend again (high potential was indicated for this type of aquaculture was reported in these three countries). On the contrary, in Israel and Egypt production has steadily increased and today contributes significantly to national food security and limits the import of fish. In these two countries the main constraint is the limited availability of freshwater (conflicts with agriculture and requirements for domestic water consumption) so both are trying to increase the stocking density in this form offish rearing.

Marine aquaculture began more recently, during the 1960s, and has shown rapid growth. The high product value of the species reared (with the exception of mussels) directs this product towards export markets but, at the same time, marine aquaculture is also seen by many countries as a means to limit fish imports. The sector has been for a long time dominated by two species, sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and sea bream (Sparus aurata) but, during recent years other Sparids (Diplodus sargus, Puntazzo puntazzo) and, more recently still, the imported Sciaenops ocellatus (Israel) are contributing to the diversification of production. Mollusc culture is more commonly a corporate activity, bringing direct positive social benefits, while fish culture is mostly dominated by private enterprises. Shrimp culture is still a minor sector and algae/macrophyte cultivation is practically absent in the region. Marine aquaculture is facing common problems in all the countries, such as a progressive saturation of available sites (both for extensive and intensive aquaculture), high competition in coastal areas use (especially with tourism development), and market restrictions (particularly due to the recent EU import regulations). A rather slow but continuous expansion of me aquaculture sector is generally anticipated, while off-shore fish culture is the activity which is actually attracting potential investors.

More details are provided, on a transectional basis from inland to off-shore, in sections 1.2 - 1.7 of this synthesis.

1.2 Lakes, rivers and reservoirs (extensive aquaculture)

There are two major activities in this sector: i) re-stocking for commercial fisheries and ii) seeding for sport fisheries. Both activities are normally supported by public authorities dealing with fisheries and aquaculture, with forestry, or with agriculture (irrigation). The sector is only relevant in a few countries (Bulgaria, Egypt, Romania, Tunisia; several thousands of tons per year), and activities take place in a wide range of water bodies, which differ in size and use (mostly reservoirs used for electricity production or for irrigation), which support a huge number fishermen either belonging to cooperatives or working individually. Users frequently have exclusive fishery rights and only in a few cases do they have to pay for the resource use (by leasing the water surface or paying for the fingerlings introduced). Fishing communities are sometimes directly involved in fingerling production and/or management (Egypt, Morocco, Romania).

The most common species stocked are rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), common carp (Cyprinus carpio) and the introduced Chinese carps (Ctenopharyngodon idella, Aristichthys nobilis, Hyphophtalmichthys molitrix). Various species of Tilapia, pike (Esox lucius) and perch-pike (Stizostedion lucioperca) are also frequently used. Egypt is a special case in that it successfully practises culture-based fisheries in an inland saltwater lake (Lake Quaroun) by using marine fish and shrimp species. Wild-caught fingerlings of grey mullets (Mugil cephalus and Liza ramada) are used to restock reservoirs in Tunisia, which has contributed to an increase in freshwater fish production from 700 t in 1996 to 1,010 t in 1997. However, production is highly dependent on yearly fluctuations in the supply of wild-caught fingerlings. Re-stocking lakes and rivers' in support of angling is commonly done in most Mediterranean countries. Anglers pay for fishing licences.

Extensive inland aquaculture, including culture-based fisheries, shows contrasting trends. A sharp decrease has characterised the sector during the past decade in Bulgaria (legal and financial constraints, due to the political transition period) and in Cyprus (because of the recent drought), while the limited availability of freshwater does not allow its expansion in Israel. On the contrary, it is rapidly expanding in Egypt and is reported as having high potential in Morocco. In the remaining countries the social impact of this activity is rather limited and production from extensive aquaculture remains stable at a low level of production, or is limited to sport fisheries.

Extensive freshwater ornamental fish aquaculture is poorly developed and is mostly based on the rearing of goldfish varieties.

1.3 Intensive and semi-intensive inland aquaculture (including integrated aquaculture)

This sub-sector is mainly dominated by trout, carp and tilapia farming.

Trout farming (mainly Oncorhynchus mykiss and Salmo trutta) is concentrated in the EU Mediterranean countries and Turkey, where it represents the most widespread form of intensive inland aquaculture, with an total annual production exceeding 150,000 t. In the other Mediterranean countries, trout culture is rare because of the limited availability of cold water sources. Traditionally developed as small- and medium-scale family activity, trout farming rapidly increased after the Second World War but then went through a critical period during the end of the past decade, due to over-production which resulted in a significant reduction in the market value of the products. This economic crisis principally affected the small-scale producers and, as a consequence, the sector quickly assumed industrial characteristics. At present, large-scale farms with capacity of 200 - 1,000 t/yr, representing less than 10% of the producers, are responsible for about 60% of the total production. Despite increased diversification into fresh and processed products, marketing still remains the most important constraint. However, the sector still attracts new investment and, in general, shows a gradual expansion.

Carp aquaculture, which is based on the rearing of common carp and introduced Chinese carps, was traditionally developed in the Eastern European countries where, for a long period of time, it was the most widespread aquaculture practice. The recent political transition has resulted in a vacuum in governmental coordination and financial support for the sector, and production has heavily declined. However, carp culture is still the leading form of aquaculture activity in this area and production is now more stable (Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania produce a total of approximately 27,000 t/yr). It is normally a corporate activity. Israel and Egypt are the only other Mediterranean countries which base their production mainly (70 - 80%) on inland aquaculture, with carp and tilapia farming (Oreochromis niloticus and red tilapia hybrids) giving a total production (frequently on a polyculture base) of around 61,000 t/yr (17,000 t of carps and 44,000 t of tilapias). In addition, Egypt also produces mullets (16,000 t), sea bass (2,200 t) and, due to the presence of low salinity inland waters, sea bream (2,250 t). Inland semi-intensive and intensive aquaculture is usually combined, in ponds and canals, with water use for irrigation. Both countries reported a progressive intensification of production (from semi-intensive to intensive pond management) to limit water consumption. This process of intensification appears to be more urgent in Israel, because of the limited availability of freshwater, but more dramatic in Egypt, where it involves the elimination or restoration of the most primitive production units which represents about 70% of the farmed area. In both Israel and Egypt the activity is usually private.

Intensive or hyper-intensive eel culture was reported by Italy (3,100 t/yr) and Greece (310 t/yr). However, this activity is significantly constrained by the limited availability of wild seed (glass eels);

Egypt is the only Mediterranean country which reported the development of integrated aquaculture (rice-fish cultivation) stating, however, that its existence depends highly on governmental subsidies (often in the form of free fingerlings supply. However, production has gone down significantly now that fingerlings are no longer distributed free.

Inland semi-intensive and intensive aquaculture is mentioned as an important or potentially important sector in the report from many countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Egypt, Morocco, Romania), due to the large freshwater surfaces available.

Intensive ornamental fish production is widespread, both for domestic and export markets, as a private activity, but little data is available (Cyprus, Greece, Spain. Turkey).

1.4 Aquaculture inside coastal lagoons3

3 Most authors correctly assumed that the term "aquaculture inside coastal lagoons" strictly referred to the well-known "vallicoltura" practised in Italy, which involves the control of the hydraulic circulation and water renewal in lagoons as well as selective fish "seeding"'. For this reason mollusc farming or the cage culture of fish, which is practised in several countries inside coastal lagoons, were reported under " in-shore aquaculture" and are synthesised in section 1.6.

Extensive aquaculture inside coastal lagoons has been traditionally developed, over a period of two centuries, in Northern Italy, along the Adriatic sea coast. At present the activity is developed in about 38,000 ha of lagoons, producing a total of about 2,000 t of fish (sea bass, bream, mullets, eels). In Italy, vallicoltura is normally developed by private enterprises with a limited impact on the local communities. On the contrary, Greek lagoon aquaculture employs some 1,500 people, mainly belonging to cooperatives. However, the number of independent Greek lagoon fishermen is increasing, probably due to the high unemployment level in rural areas. In Italy, the production from vallicoltura also includes about 15,000 t of Manila clams (Japanese carpet shells) which were introduced about twenty years ago. However, this production comes from the management of what has now to be considered a natural stock, since it no longer requires spat seeding; thus its output should not be included within aquaculture or culture-based fisheries activities.

Tunisia, which privatised the management of six coastal lagoons in 1998, reported that (despite the limited production so far achieved, some 1% of the total farmed fish production in 1996) this form of aquaculture is considered important because of its product value and diversification. The report from Bulgaria mentions some "valliculture" activities which were practised along the Black Sea coastal lagoons before the industrialisation of the area, but they are now extinct. In Egypt, coastal lagoons are reported to be reserved for capture fisheries but the persistence of "hoshas" was also noted. Hoshas, despite legal prohibition, are still estimated to yield about 5,000 t/yr.

No other countries manage coastal lagoons for extensive aquaculture production.

1.5 Land-based coastal aquaculture

The farming of marine species developed during the 1970s and 1980s in land-based facilities essentially because there were no acceptable alternatives. This activity is currently more and more constrained in most Mediterranean countries, because of high land costs and severe competition with other users of the coastal area (tourism, urban development, environment protection, harbours).

Today, the production of marine fish (principally Sparus aurata and Dicentrarchus labrax) and shrimp fry is probably the most developed land-based activity (again for a lack of valid alternatives), and is concentrated in the EU Mediterranean countries and Turkey, which export part of their production. Cyprus, Israel and Tunisia also produce enough fingerlings to support their land-based or floating cage fanning units.

In general, land-based marine fish grow-out activities are being progressively substituted by cage culture, but it remains a valid option, in concrete tanks or earthen ponds, under special conditions such as the use of warm water sources (industrial effluents or well water); the rearing of certain species such as turbot (France); or combined wife extensive production in lagoons (Italy); or, occasionally, in marsh areas (Spain, France).

1.6 In-shore aquaculture

This sub-sector still represents the bulk of coastal aquaculture production, having been developed in protected areas such as bays, gulfs, canals and coastal lagoons (see note in section 1.4), mostly based on mollusc farming and finfish cage culture. Despite the fact feat it is subject to the same numerous constraints to on-land aquaculture (conflicts wife other users, deterioration in coastal water quality), which limit the availability of adequate sites, a few countries still plan a significant expansion of in-shore aquaculture, as well as its gradual transfer into open waters (see section 1.7).

Mollusc culture, which has been developed since the beginning of the 20th Century, involves the use of various techniques (fixed and floating structures) basically for the production of mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) and oysters (Crassostrea gigas and Ostrea edulis). Other species, such as scallops, clams and abalone, have also been farmed in order to diversify the production, but none attained the same commercial scale as mussel and oyster rearing. In particular, the promising culture of the imported Japanese carpet shell (Manila clam) was strongly constrained by its rapid adaptation to the natural environment (the Po river delta in Italy and the Morbihan Gulf in France) which gave rise to a competitive fisheries production. Mollusc culture is highly developed in the EU Mediterranean countries (Spain, France, Italy and Greece, with a total of several hundred thousands of tons per year) which can also rely on a traditional domestic consumption of these species groups. The sector has reached a high level of technology and mechanisation, and farms are operated both by private and corporate producers. Croatia (1,000 t/yr of mussels and 100 t/yr of oysters) and Morocco (250 t/yr of oysters) are the major producers among the remaining countries. In the Black Sea, both Bulgaria (150 t/yr) and Romania (20 t/yr) are trying to develop mussel farming, but face additional constraints because of the oligotrophic environmental conditions and market competition from the wild mussels, which are sold without any quality certification (Romania).

The cage farming of marine finfish started in the early 1980s. This in-shore activity provided the opportunity to avoid expensive land-based facilities but was initially confined to protected coastal areas until the more recent development of reliable off-shore cages. This farming technique therefore appears to be highly constrained by the competitive use of the littoral zone, and it is not expected to show further significant expansion. Greece, Turkey, Italy, France, Spain, Croatia, Israel and Morocco are the most important producers of marine fish in the Mediterranean, using in-shore cage farming. The report from Greece (which is expected to produce 31,000 t in 1999) noted that no more licences were being issued in accordance with EU Directives. In the Greek report, the urgent need to diversify production was specifically mentioned; this is a wider problem, which affects the whole of Mediterranean marine finfish production.

Marine fish farming is mostly developed by private enterprises and less so by corporate groups. Local communities are rarely involved (Turkey).

1.7 Off-shore aquaculture

This form of aquaculture has the potential to solve most of the hindrances which hamper the expansion of coastal aquaculture, and therefore attracts great interest in most of the Mediterranean countries. It is already well developed in Cyprus (840 t/yr; 87% of the total national aquaculture production) and Malta (about 2,000 t/yr; which is almost the total aquaculture production of the country), where no sheltered areas exist. It is also well developed in other countries, such as Italy and Spain, where conflicts with the tourism industry or scarcity of appropriate sites are already forcing the producers to move far from the coast. In addition, the Black Sea countries reported interest in developing off-shore aquaculture, and some activities are already carried out by Turkey involving the farming of salmon and large-size trout.

However, it should be noted that the term "off-shore aquaculture" is frequently misunderstood or misused. Apart from incorporating the concept of open sea fanning (sea ranching; culture-based fisheries), off-shore aquaculture usually involves the setting up of production units in deep seawater (but the recommended depth is different in the various legislative instruments) in order to reduce the potential negative impact of fish farming on the environment. In many cases, however, "open sea" and "deep water" conditions occur at a short distance from the coast line. Thus, simple respect for the relevant legislation is not sufficient to avoid conflicts with other users of the coastal area, as well as those organisations and authorities which are concerned with environmental protection.

An important constraint to the further development of off-shore aquaculture is the higher investment required. Many countries still have no local suppliers and must import cages and equipment from abroad. The increased management costs related with daily routine operations concerning cages located far from the coast is also limiting off-shore aquaculture development.

Off-shore aquaculture has been mainly for finfish cage farming. So far, France is the only country that has developed off-shore commercial mussel production in long-lines (10 - 15,000 t/yr) in the Mediterranean Sea. Even in this case, higher investment and management costs are required (stronger mooring systems and long-line structures as well as larger workboats).

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