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Aquaculture rebounding in Eastern Europe, Central Asia

With relatively little coastline and limited access to the open sea, Eastern Europe and Central Asia are not popularly known for their fish-based cultures or economies.

But according to a recent FAO report, the region today is restoring its traditional aquaculture systems and even expanding into new fish markets.

The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2014analyzes fish production around the globe and provides details on the state of aquaculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia including implications for the future.

A steady recovery for fish farming

The fall of the Soviet Union had a profound impact on aquaculture, or fish farming, in the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. With no system to coordinate a complex supply chain of infrastructure, feed, and expertise across a vast and suddenly fragmented region, fish production and consumption plummeted.

Yet fish production is making a comeback in the region. Total aquaculture production in has been restored nearly to 1990 levels, largely thanks to strong growth in Turkey. The rest of the region is also sustaining a steady recovery in this sector as it rebounds from a decade of economic turmoil.

Rising fish consumption and regional integration

The European Union continues to be the largest importer of fish and fishery products in the world, but developing countries around the world account for an increasing share of fish imports. The FAO report also highlights significant increases in fish consumption in Central and Eastern Europe thanks to greater purchasing power in the region.

Regional integration and globalization challenge the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia to meet high quality standards for fish production, in order to export fish to new markets such as the EU. The fish processing industry has consolidated in Central and Eastern Europe and made great strides to comply with regulations on fish quality, sanitation, transportation and traceability.
 
Supporting the future of aquaculture

Although much of the region is landlocked, fish production and consumption have a strong tradition here, according to Eva Kovács, an aquaculture expert based at FAO’s regional office in Budapest.

“Farmers across this region are generally thought to only plant crops and raise livestock, but they often diversify their yield with aquaculture in local ponds, rivers and lakes,” Kovacs said. “We must acknowledge that aquaculture is an important contributor to food security in the region. FAO aims to support fish farmers with the training and resources necessary to expand the benefits of aquaculture beyond the individual family or community. ” Technical support like this is essential when many farmers in post-Soviet countries are skeptical of regional cooperation and integration.

Training farmers in best practices in aquaculture further ensures higher-quality fish product s and minimizes the potential for environmental damage. But despite regional and global growth in aquaculture, climate change threatens to inhibit progress and limit benefits. In Central Asia, droughts and natural disasters have already raised the cost of fish feed and contributed to a shortage of water sources for aquaculture.

1 October 2014, Budapest, Hungary

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