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APPENDIX E - General Characteristics of Hungarian Fisheries


Hungary is a typical land-locked country in Central Europe, in the Carpathian basin. Because of culinary traditions the population is first of all inclined to consume freshwater fishes which are made available by domestic production. The other factor with dominant influence on the development of Hungarian fish production is that the most important fish species belong to the families Cyprinidae and Percidae, that is to the group of warm-water fishes from an aquacultural viewpoint.

Management and control of the fishery sector are under the responsibility of the Hunting and Fisheries Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. The administrative work based on the Fishery Act and the management and development of productive activities are carried out here.

Over the past three decades the Hungarian fisheries sector has undergone a major expansion, as is indicated in Figure 1. This figure also indicates the share of different fishery and aquacultural activities within the sector.

The two major fields of production are: natural waters (capture fisheries or pond management, depending on the water bodies) and pond farm fish production. These two areas are closely related.


The fishing rights belong to the State on all the natural waters of the country which comprise about 135 000 ha including reservoirs. It should be noted here that according to the Hungarian Fishery Act reservoirs also belong to the category of natural waters, since they were not constructed for fishery purposes. The fishing rights are granted by the State, on the basis of given conditions, to organizations which are considered to be the most suitable for the utilization of a certain water area. The organizations utilizing natural waters may be of the following types: State farms, agricultural cooperatives, fishery cooperatives, research institutes and the Hungarian National Angling Union. Anglers are entitled to use waters not constituting the area of anglers' organizations as well. The only exceptions to this are the intensively utilized water reservoirs and oxbow lakes.

The data in Figure 1 indicate that fish captures from extensively used natural waters have also increased steadily. It should be noted here that in accordance with the Hungarian statistical system, the anglers' catches are recorded and the fish captured by anglers have risen sharply with rapid increase of sport fishing activities.

Fisheries management and production of natural waters in Hungary have been adversely affected by river training works and rising pollution levels. This tendency can only be countered by stocking more and more fish into the waters. The production of increasing quantities of stocking material is the task of the pond farms.


The production of common carp (Cyprinus carpio L.) is the most important type of fish farming in Hungary. Climatic and topographical conditions in the country are particularly advantageous to the development of pond farming; thus as early as the end of the nineteenth century people began to construct fish ponds. Many fish ponds were constructed after 1950. The general approach here was to construct fish ponds on areas which were very difficult to use for other farming purposes. Most of the fish ponds were constructed on the worst, frequently alkaline soils.

The total pond area in operation is about 22 000 ha.

Fish ponds may be found mostly on State farms with an integrated farming profile and in agricultural cooperatives. On these farms there is a separate branch for fish production which is, however, closely associated with other farming activities, primarily with the crop production branch, which supplies the fish production with feed.

Figure 1. Diagram of fish production in Hungary

As with other Central European countries the principal fish in pond farming is the common carp. Production is generally in 3-year cycles. In the first year fingerlings of 25-35 g, in the second year fingerlings of 200-250 g, and in the third year market fish of above 1 kg body weight are produced. The 2-year production cycle is less extensively followed; this pattern is applied mainly in certain years as a supplementary system. In this scheme in the first year fingerlings of 80-100 g are produced, the fish being raised to market size, mainly under 1 kg weight, in the second production year.

The successful introduction of Chinese carps involved important changes in Hungarian pond farming. The acclimatization programme started in 1963 with the following species: grass carp (Ctenopharyringodon idella, Cuv. et Val.), silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix, Cuv. et Val.), and bighead (Aristichthys nobilis, Rich.). These were in general terms herbivorous fishes.

The main objective of this venture was to find a way to a better utilization of the natural nutrients in the ponds, so as to be able to increase yields without alteration of feeding methods. The main principle of feeding in pond farms in Hungary is to enable the ponds themselves to produce the animal protein required for the fish, by means of various fertilization methods, so that only cereals need be fed directly. Farms stock their ponds with common carp and herbivorous species in highly different proportions. The composition of the stocking population is determined by natural conditions and by market requirements. The stocking pattern itself involves to some extent alterations in the technology applied.

With the widespread introduction of polyculture (common carp + herbivorous fishes) a new pond farm model has been developed as illustrated in Figure 2.

The figure shows farming activity which includes the entire production cycle in which the marketing of both mature fish and stocking material are of great importance. A complete production cycle can only be found on certain large fish farms; there is a strong tendency towards specialization. Specialization is in its most advanced stage in the field of reproduction. About 30 percent of fry production is concentrated in the Warm Water Fish Hatchery at Százhalombatta.

The production of supplementary fish species is also practised. These are predatory fishes like wels (Silurus glanis L.) and pike-perch (Stizostedion lucioperca L.) in the first instance, and tench (Tinca tinca L.) which help to better utilize available nutrients. The share of supplementary fish species in the stock of a given pond is not more than a few percent.

In addition to the previously mentioned pond farm fish species, the farm units specialized in reproduction are also concerned with fishes which play a major role as stocking material for natural waters. Therefore, induced propagation methods are applied for pike (Esox lucius L.), sterlet (Acipenser ruthenus L.), asp (Aspius aspius L.), and barbel (Barbus barbus L.).

Certain farms undertake duck production on fish ponds as well. Following a brief initial rearing period, young ducklings are kept on the ponds; thus the ponds are fertilized by duck droppings. On the pond farm of the Fisheries Research Institute at Szarvas the fish-cum-duck production system is augmented with agricultural rotation as well.

3.1 Trout Farming

Trout farming in Hungary does not belong to the traditional fish production activities. Until 1976 only two minor trout farms were operating in the country. Their task was to supply fish for the domestic market and to provide stocking material for various natural water areas. A really large-scale type of trout operation was established in 1976. This farm is supplied with water from an adjacent bauxite mine. The species farmed here is the rainbow trout (Salmo gairdneri, Rich.). Production on this farm in 1982 was 304 t.


Fish production in water reservoirs is of secondary importance. The primary purpose of water utilization from the reservoirs imposes restrictions on fishery possibilities.

Figure 2. Polyculture model in fish farm

For some of the reservoirs (the so-called 1-year storage facilities) the same technology has been developed as for pond farm fish production. For these reservoirs the ancillary facilities necessary for fishery utilization are designed. The water level in these reservoirs is considerably reduced by the end of the productive season, and the residual water is removed to facilitate harvesting. The fish yields attained and the profitability of production are roughly the same as for traditional pond farming.

Recent legal provisions for land protection compel reservoir constructors to pay a fine as land redemption for the area removed from agricultural usage. The amount paid is progressively rising, depending on the quality of land in question. The only way to reduce this cost is to design supplementary fishery facilities for the reservoirs. In this case 50 percent of the penal land redemption tax is cancelled. These central measures are expected to lead to a larger number of reservoirs being built in future years for intensive fish production.

At present the majority of reservoirs are suitable only for traditional capture fisheries and angling. The fishing rights in certain water reservoirs are now granted to the Hungarian National Angling Union. These reservoirs primarily serve recreational purposes; commercial fishing is carried out in them in exceptional cases, usually for stock regulation. Water reservoirs for exclusive use of anglers also contribute to the profitability of pond farming, by the purchase of large amounts of fingerlings from State-owned and cooperative pond farms for re-stocking.


The large-scale river training operations had a double effect on fisheries. The drainage of large flood areas led to a reduction of fish spawning grounds, and consequently, to a reduction in stock in rivers. This set-back could only be partially ameliorated by extensive capture fisheries and sport fishing activity. Over the last two decades, when construction costs of traditional pond farms were rising, the fishery cooperatives operating over oxbow lakes recognized the possibility of using the different oxbow lakes for a much more intensive fish production than hitherto practised.

Oxbow lakes in flood plains and outside protected river banks have basically different features and possibilities for fishery utilization.

The oxbow lakes in the flood plains are connected to the main river bed for a shorter or longer time during the year. The development of an intensive pond-like production technology can not be undertaken in these water areas. It is advisable, therefore, to develop them in such a way as to make them more suitable for anglers compelled to quit waters taken under intensive utilization. By a minor technical civil engineering intervention a part of the oxbow lakes can be connected with the main river bed for a longer period of the year, even at low water levels. In this way, the role of these areas in the re-supply of the main water course with fish can be restored and the cost involved in restocking rivers can be substantially reduced.

The majority of oxbow lakes outside protected banks may be used for intensive, pond-like fish production. This requires different levels of technical improvement on different areas, but it generally involves the following:

(i) Conditions should be provided for safe, economic drain-off and replenishment, independently from the water level in the main water course.

(ii) Conditions for internal water management and water control, required for high-level fish farming, should be created (internal drain-off canals, fishing pits, embankments).

(iii) In certain cases the construction of fish storage ponds, wintering ponds and granaries might become necessary.

Only oxbow lakes with special endowments can be drained perfectly. Consequently, the aeration, freezing, and cultivation of the bottom are impossible. Since oxbow lakes are used for water storage purposes as well, water retention and removal can only be carried out in accordance with, or subordinated to the interests of water management and agricultural water usage. The quality of incoming water also varies greatly. All of these factors combine to give a much shorter lifetime and suitability for intensive fish farming in comparison with traditional fish ponds.

At present, about 1 500 ha of oxbow lakes are under intensive fish production in Hungary. About 90 percent of this area produces market fish from yearlings, by polycultural methods. About 10 percent of the area produces yearlings through stocking with fingerlings. This latter area is confined to waters difficult to protect against fish poachers; its importance is expected to decline in the future.

The composition of fish stocks in intensively utilized oxbow lakes differs from that of the traditional pond farms. The share of herbivorous fishes is much higher and the stocking rate of common carp is very low. Because of this the production technology is also different. Fertilization plays a decisive role, while only moderate supplementary feeding is practised.


Technologies of cage fish culture have been developed under Hungarian conditions for such fish species as the common carp, the wels, the channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus), the black bullhead (I. melas), the hybrid of sterlet and beluga (Acipenser ruthenus × Huso huso), as well as for some polycultural combinations.

Actually, cage fish culture is practised on a pilot-farm scale. Pilot farms have been established on backwaters, irrigation channels, reservoirs, and gravel pits.

The price of high animal protein content feed stuffs is so high that it makes common carp farming in this way uneconomical under Hungarian conditions. The pilot scale operations are concerned with fish species which meet a demand by export markets or which meet special needs in the domestic catering industry. The best results thus have been reached with wels and sterlet/beluga hybrids.

Technological development is aimed at fish production on water areas which presently serve primarily angling purposes, or which are of low value from the fisheries point of view, such as gravel pits and irrigation channels.


Intensive eel farming is the newest venture in Hungarian fisheries. The Tuka eel farm, belonging to the State farm of Hortobágy, started its production activity in 1981; the Héviz eel farm, belonging to the State Fisheries of Balaton, in 1983. Previously market-size eels in the Tuka farm were produced from imported fingerlings. In the Héviz farm a rearing unit has been established as well, so from 1983 onwards, only elver imports have been needed.

The quantity of fingerlings produced in the Héviz farm is sufficient for intensive farms and also enables the stocking of Lake Balaton with fingerlings instead of elvers.

The main target of these ventures is the utilization of geothermal energy for fisheries purposes. The warm water supply in Tuka has been provided by the help of a thermal well; in the case of the Héviz farm, from the effluent of a natural geothermal pond.

The technology for both farms has been provided by the firm British Petrol Nutrition (UK) with the reservation that its details should be regarded as confidential information.


Marketing plays a decisive role in the economics of fish farming. The different marketing possibilities have an effect on production technologies and on the structure of production by fish species and age groups.

Stocking material is mostly marketed through direct deliveries between fish farms, frequently on the basis of package contracts extending for several years. In marketing of stocking material there is a considerable competition between the demands of fish farms, natural water fisheries and angling associations. This market is less affected by export possibilities, because the amount of export-ready stocking material is limited by the State. Stocking material exports have to be authorized by the Hunting and Fisheries Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. The price of stocking material of predatory fishes is relatively stable on the domestic market but the prices of common carp and herbivorous species vary greatly from year to year according to supply and demand.

Fish in Hungary can not be considered as a regularly consumed foodstuff. It represents only 1 percent of total expenditures for foodstuffs and there are very high seasonal changes. A representative datum is that the amount of fish sold during the days preceding Christmas corresponds to the total turnover in fish of two average months.

As an overall indication the per caput annual fish consumption from domestic production varies between 2.0-2.3 kg. This quantity is increased by an annual per caput consumption of approximately 1 kg of salt water fish from import sources. The total fish consumption is thus extremely low but within this level the consumption of freshwater fish is outstanding on an international scale.

In particular the common carp is in high demand by the population because special fish dishes of the Hungarian cuisine are usually prepared from this species. Common carp is mainly commercialized as live fish in aquaria. Carps above 1 kg in weight are rated as a first-class commodity.

The herbivorous fish species are less in demand on the domestic market. Their domestic turnover can be increased only in the form of kitchen-ready products.

Actually, the demand for predatory fish (e.g., wels, pike and perch) captured from natural waters or produced as supplementary fish in fish farming can not be matched by production. The consumer price of these species is about 2.5 times the price of common carp. The same applies to the price of trout, although in this case the high price is a result of the high production costs rather than of excessive demand.

In fish marketing the producer has the possibility of choosing between several channels in order to maximize profitability. Fish commodity prices in Hungary are not directly controlled; they belong to the so-called 'free price' category.

The largest producers generally offer their fish crop to the single fish wholesale trade company 'Halért'. About 50 percent of all farmed fish are sold through this company.

The price margin for the wholesale and retail trade is centrally controlled at 12 percent and 16.5 percent respectively. At the same time, in order to keep consumer prices down the State provides a 13 percent subsidy (consumer price promotion) on farm raised carp and herbivorous fish. Price margins and levels of subsidies are calculated backwards on the basis of consumer prices. Taking into consideration the stable price margins and the way of calculation, the consumer price promotion acts to improve the rentability of fish farms.

Consumer prices are subject to seasonal variations. Thus, for example, the consumer price of first-class common carp in May-June-July is on average 50 percent higher than in October, the main period of pond harvesting. The farms, therefore, which undertake the delivery of their fish in the summer season may receive quite high price proceeds. On farms where the necessary technical conditions are available, the amount of fish to be captured during selective harvests in summer is planned at the time of stocking in springtime. On other farms the current economic conditions are taken into consideration in order to decide on summer harvesting, with its difficulties, risks, higher price possibilities and lower production volume.

In view of its preponderant role, the commercial channel described above has a decisive effect on possible consumer prices attainable through marketing by other existing channels. There is, however, a possibility to realize a part of the retail and wholesale price margins within the fishery branch or at least within the given State-owned or cooperative farm itself. This is made possible through the following schemes:

(i) The farm operates its own fish processing plant for which the raw material is supplied by its own fishery branch at a given accounting price or purchased from other farms without the involvement of the wholesale trade. These prices are higher than those paid by the Halért Fish Trade Company, whereby higher profits are obtained in the fishery and in the fish processing branch of the farm, mainly from the distribution of the 12 percent wholesale trade price margin.

(ii) The farm operates its own fish selling shop or catering trade establishment, e.g., a fishermen's inn. The internal accounting prices follow the same pattern as in the case above. The fish shop gets the 13 percent consumer price promotion from the State. The profit increment is distributed between the farm's fishery and retail trade or catering trade branch.

(iii) The fish are marketed directly for the State-managed cooperative or private catering trade units without involving the wholesale trade. This possibility is extremely limited because the catering trade requires continual delivery of small lots and it is easier for the wholesale trade company to meet this demand.

(iv) There is a possibility to operate fee-fishing ponds for anglers, and in this way to offer fish and services directly to the consumer. This channel has not been established yet but we can expect its development in the near future. There is a very similar way of marketing in fishery and agricultural cooperatives utilizing natural waters. These cooperatives stock their waters with a large amount of fish which is partly recaptured by anglers who booked their licences from the cooperatives.

Formerly, the income of farms was appreciably enhanced by marketing fish for export. Actually the importance of this, from the point of view of the producer, not the national economy, is smaller as the export and domestic prices approach equality. Fish farms are not endowed with export rights, which are the responsibility of designated foreign trade companies. In exports of fish, the decisive role is played by the Fish Export Bureau which is a joint venture of the Terimpex Foreign Trade Company, the Halért Fish Trade Company and the most important fish producers of the country.


Production activity and technical development of all State-owned fish farms are supervised and coordinated by the Central Office of State-owned Farms in Budapest. In the case of fishery cooperatives the same role is played by the Association of Fishery Cooperatives. Agricultural cooperatives can also join this Association if they choose. All angling associations are members of the Hungarian National Angling Union.

The special integrating organization of the Hungarian pond farming is the Bikal Fish Production System. State farms and cooperative farms can join the System voluntarily. Technology for production is developed by the State Farm of Bikal for each member farm. The State Farm, as the integrator of the system, ensures advisory service during the production season, supply of stocking material, medicated feeds and machinery and also organizes the sale of the end-products. Member farms pay a fee for these services yearly, the amount of which is dependent on the pond area.

The fish health service is provided by the Central Veterinary Institute and 19 county veterinary stations.

As has already been mentioned, the general supervising authority of the Hungarian fisheries sector is the Hunting and Fisheries Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. Supervision of fisheries research activities is carried out by this Department in cooperation with the Education and Research Department of the same Ministry. Research programmes are planned for five-year periods and financed by the Ministry. The Fisheries Research Institute at Szarvas is responsible for the execution of the programmes. Research works are partly carried out in the Institute, and partly on the basis of contracts with other institutions and universities. Some problems, which are especially important from the point of view of fisheries practice, are solved by the fish farms themselves, but research work concerning fisheries, is coordinated by the Fisheries Research Institute.


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Pinter, K.,1978, Socio-economic aspects of the development of sport fisheries in Hungary. In Recreational freshwater fisheries: their conservation, management and development, edited by J.S. Alabaster. Stevenage, U.K., Water Research Centre, pp. 181-94

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Woynárovich, E. and L. Horváth, 1980, The artificial propagation of warm-water finfishes: a manual for extension. FAO Fish. Tech. Pap., (201):183 p. Issued also in French and Spanish

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ISBN 92-5-102168-6

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