Bosnia and Herzegovina has more than a century-long tradition of aquaculture of salmonid and cyprinid species. The current situation with respect to aquaculture production has been significantly influenced by the previous war, when a large number of fish farms were destroyed or badly damaged. Thanks to the efforts of the producers and the government, there have been significant improvements in the aquaculture production sector, specifically in relation to the number of food fish species in production, technology, management and marketing. In spite of all these efforts, certain problems in production still remain, due largely to the way in which the state has been organised. Bosnia and Herzegovina comprises two entities at government level: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Srpska. This makes it difficult to ensure complete control over production and protection. For example, Bosnia and Herzegovina does not yet have a ministry of agriculture at state level. Nor are there laws on fishery and aquaculture, on sport fishing or on concessions. There is however, a state Veterinary Administration at the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations. There is also an Association of Fish Producers.
Bosnia and Herzegovina also experiences difficulties with respect to exporting to European Union member states.
There are only a few wastewater treatment facilities, as a result of which only 6 percent of all wastewater in the entire country is treated. However, during the last few years, there have been significant improvements at state level. Much of the data presented in this report has been gathered from personal contacts with managers of fish farms, since there is no institution at state level collecting data on production, imports of fish food, water protection, exports of fish and so on.
The first records on organized fishing in Bosnia and Herzegovina date back to the late nineteenth century. At the time, fishing was under the control of the Forestry Directorate and taxes were imposed on professional fishermen, a so-called 'fishing fee' (Hutovo blato etc.). The organized protection of waterbodies and legal regulations were introduced by Decree in 1886. The first fishermen's association in Bosnia and Herzegovina was founded in 1892 or 1893 under the name 'Fischerei-Verein fur Bosnien-Herzegovina'. The first sport fishermen's association, the 'Fishermen association' was established in Sarajevo in 1906.
The introduction of modern fish culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina is associated with the establishment of the fish farm 'Vrelo Bosne' near Ilidza in 1894. In 1898 a new, large hatchery was built. With a capacity of 600 000 pieces of fry, it was the largest and the most modern hatchery in the region. It played a major role in the development of salmonid fish culture and stocking.
The development of cyprinid fish culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina began in 1902 when a Polish citizen, Viktor Burda, purchased barren land near Prijedor and Bosanska Gradiska from the Government and constructed a fish farm.
In the period 1946-1982, a novel, more intensive model of culture of fish and other aquatic organisms developed rapidly under the international name of aquaculture. A system of floating cages in lakes and reservoirs with dense populations and significantly higher production was developed. Fish was fed on highly nutritious pellets. In the same period herbivorous fish species (grass carp, silver carp and bighead carp) were introduced and produced. At the same time, the production of salmonid species achieved full expansion. In 1964, Bosnia and Herzegovina had 13 salmonid fish farms with a total surface area of 38 000 m2 .
The Institute for Fishery was established in 1952. It subsequently merged with the Sarajevo University Institute of Biology which has developed extensive scientific activities and is responsible for the development of ichthyology and fishery, in particular salmonid and cyprinid fish production in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In 1959 the Center for Fishery was established under the umbrella of the School for Scientific and Technological Cooperation of the Veterinary Medicine Institute. It played a major role in the field of diagnostics, prevention and management of parasites and infectious diseases in controlled salmonid and cyprinid culture.
In 1990, Bosnia and Herzegovina produced approximately 3 000 tonnes of fish for consumption. During the war, most of the production capacity was devastated and a number of workers and experts abandoned aquaculture. After the war, in 1996, aquaculture started with a major deficit. A great deal of hard work and dedication by the producers as well as the re-establishment of communications resulted in the 'normalization' of aquaculture production. The privatization process also exerted a major influence and in the majority of cases turned out to be rather successful.
In the period 1999-2003 the overall conditions for production and processing of fish were improved. These included the availability of high quality feed, new technology, expansion of capacity and the establishment of producers' associations. Good communication among fish producers in Bosnia and Herzegovina was established and several business arrangements were set up with foreign investors.
In 2004, 6 344 tonnes of food fish were produced in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This comprised 3 430 tonnes of salmonids, 2 807 tonnes of cyprinids, 92 tonnes of marine fish and 15 tonnes of molluscs.
In 2004 562 full-time workers and approximately 100 part-time workers were employed directly in the aquaculture sector on cyprinid fish farms. In addition, workers in fish shops and other areas of the fish industry also benefit indirectly from aquaculture. Of the total number of fish farms, 75 percent have been privatized, 20 percent are under concessions for 15 or 20 years, and 5 percent are still in state ownership. There are also fish farms owned by foreign companies, such as Norfish Lagan. Managers at a large number of larger fish farms have university degrees (economy, agriculture, veterinary and biology). The staff usually have an elementary education. In Bosnia and Herzegovina there is no high school for fishery, and very little attention has been paid to the education of both employers and employees at the fish farms. Only 5 percent of all workers at the fish farms are women, and they work mainly in administration.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, fish farms are generally distributed in three main regions. In northern Bosnia, in the Republic of Srpska, there are 5 cyprinid fish farms with a total area of 3 276 ha. In the river Neretva and the river Vrbas basins (mainly in the Federation of BiH) there are about 40 concrete salmonid fish farms of 8.5 ha and 14 salmonid cage fish farms of 8.1 ha. Marine aquaculture in 2 cage farms, with a total area of 3.6 ha, is located in Neum.
The most important fish species in the aquaculture sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina are:
Endemic species are today endangered due to the lack of legislative measures and funds for their protection. The most endangered species are: Salmo obtusirostris and Salmo marmoratus . There is very little information on the current level of threat for the following species: Aulopyge huegelii, Chondrostoma phoxinus, Chondrostoma kneri, Phoxinellus adspersus, Phoxinellus alepidotus, Phoxinellus pstrossii, Phoxinellus metohiensis, Phoxinellus ghetaldii, Leuciscus turskyi and Leuciscus svallize .
Significant attention is currently being paid to Salmo obtusirostris, Salmo marmoratus and Salmo trutta fario from the river Neretva (particularly involving DNA analysis and the construction of a hatchery for more detailed research at Boracko lake in Herzegovina), as well as to Hucho hucho, Thymallus thymallus, and Salmo trutta fario from the river Una (involving DNA analysis and the construction of a hatchery on the river Krusnica in western Bosnia, through an FAO project).
Salmonid fish farms mainly use concrete tanks with optimal flow and high quality water. Aeration has not been used, and a large number of these fish farms do not have filters for purification of used water. After the war there was an expansion of cage culture in the rivers Neretva, Trebisnjica and Vrbas. Today, thanks to new technology from Norway, cages with dimensions 10 x 10 x 10 m are in use, whereas previously their dimensions were 5 x 5 x 5 m.
Marine aquaculture is carried out in only two fish farms using cages in Neum in the Adriatic Sea. Molluscs are cultivated in the traditional way.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, there are two plants for fish processing at Salakovac and Banja Luka. They use modern technology, produce a wide range of products and have an annual capacity of approximately 3 000 tonnes.
Production data has been obtained from the private sector since there is no institution at state level collecting and distributing data on production and product type. According to these estimates (see Table 1), total production in 2004 was 6 344 tonnes, at a value of US$ 15 205 100.
Table 1. Production of food fish in aquaculture in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2004.
(Source: unofficial estimates collected by the author directly at the fish farms).
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Bosnia and Herzegovina according to FAO statistics:
Consumers in Bosnia and Herzegovina have traditionally bought live freshwater fish for consumption from fish shops. Of the total production of food fish, approximately 65 percent goes to the domestic market in bigger cities, such as Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Mostar, Tuzla, Bihac and Zenica. Part of the production (approximately 35 percent) is exported to Serbia and Montenegro, and a smaller amount to Croatia. The main exported species are common carp, grass carp and rainbow trout. These species are exported mainly as fresh products and iced. A small part (approximately 15 tonnes) is exported as smoked fish. Rainbow trout is the most important species in aquaculture. Its price goes from US$ 2.3/kg at fish farm (wholesale) including transportation, to US$ 4-5/kg at fish shops and markets (retail price).
Other prices per kg are: carp fingerlings (US$ 5), food carp (retail US$ 2.5), grass carp (retail US$ 2.2), bighead carp (retail US$ 1.7), catfish (retail US$ 5.0) and pike-perch (retail US$ 5.0).
A larger number of big fish farms have their own transportation for fresh and live products. At the moment, there is an ongoing process of certification of production in the aquaculture sector, with the assistance of the State Veterinary Administration. Certification will enable exports of a large percentage of products. For this purpose, in September 2005 the five largest fish farms in the country were visited by a special commission from the European Union. A laboratory with expert staff has been established at the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Sarajevo. They currently have control over all fish farms in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Fish supply in the country is mainly provided through supermarkets and specialized fish markets. Current consumption of fish and fish products is estimated at 1.5 kg per capita annually. It would be much higher, but due to the very difficult economic situation with high unemployment rates, it will probably not change in the near future.
The official unemployment rate in the country is very high at 44 percent. However, according to 2004 estimates, the 'grey' economy may reduce actual unemployment to nearly 20 percent. Each new working place is very important for poverty alleviation. Critical groups include disabled persons, civil victims of the war and demobilised soldiers, as well as younger people who do not see good prospects for themselves in the country, since they cannot find a job. Since Bosnia and Herzegovina is very rich in high quality aquatic resources (small rivers, larger rivers, lakes and reservoirs), aquaculture offers potential for development. It is the only branch which succeeded in increasing the production of food fish from 3 000 tonnes before the war to some 7 000 tonnes of food fish in the year 2005. Production in 2004 was 6 344 tonnes, as mentioned previously.
Initial experience in the construction of small family fish farms in rural areas is very positive and there are regular enquiries from people interested in constructing new fish farms. The major problems are lack of credit, since interest rates are still very high, at approximately 10 percent, and stimulation of production. Numerous international organisations try to assist this sector, but this is not sufficient.
In 2006 the State Ministry for Agriculture will be established, and this will significantly contribute to the development of this sector.
The only agency responsible for aquaculture at state level is the State Veterinary Administration at the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations. It deals mainly with fish diseases. In addition to this body, there is a Foreign Trade Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina, also at state level, which has some incomplete data on fish exports and imports, and imports of fish feed.
There are two organizations of producers of freshwater and marine fish in Bosnia and Herzegovina, one at each entity. There are two laws on freshwater fishery which are contradictory with respect to numerous issues. A new law was introduced on 5 October 2004. There is no main law at state level. Numerous fish farms operate without any registration whatsoever.
There is no co-ordination between fishermen and administration in the country. In the past joint activities were organized locally. For these reasons, today there are divided riverbanks in all parts of the country. The state has still not adopted laws which would oblige fishermen to observe European and other international standards for resource management.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina there are currently the following sport fishermen's associations:
According to the Dayton Peace Agreement, all legislation belonging to the former Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina which was not inconsistent with the Dayton Peace Accords may stay in force. Hence, the Law on Urban Planning, adopted in 1974, and which covers the environment and nature protection, is still in force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Kurbegovic, 1998).
Environmental legislation has been prepared through the EU project, "Preparation of Environmental Law and Policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina" (Regional Environmental Center, 2002). The environmental laws include: Law on the Protection of the Environment, Law on the Protection of the Waters, Law on the Protection of the Nature, Law on Waste Management and Law on the Protection of the Air. The environmental laws were been passed in the Republic of Srpska in September 2002, in addition to the Law on the waters. In the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the environmental laws were passed in July 2003.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has ratified or signed some of the most important international conventions and agreements related to aquaculture, including:
The main scientific and governmental institutions were significantly damaged or completely destroyed during the war. They have remained isolated without any contact with international research institutions.
Today, there are several well equipped educational and research institutions with trained staff in the field of aquaculture. They include the Faculty of Science of the University of Sarajevo, the Faculty of Science of the University of Banja Luka, the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Sarajevo, the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Banja Luka and the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Sarajevo.
There are no fish farms owned by scientific and research institutions. Some experiments dealing with fish nutrition and selection and production of endemic species have been carried out, but this is not sufficient.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has abundant natural resources, but there are several constraints to encouraging production and sales of freshwater aquaculture products. This calls for measures such as the following:
There are no systematic impact assessments of the potential hazards to the aquatic environment. Assessments have only been carried out in the case of accidents such as the discharge of hazardous substances in water bodies from industrial sources, or car accidents involving oil tankers. Monitoring of both the quality and quantity of water is only organized in the Una River basin by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and experts such as consulting engineers and water specialists. Until now environmental impact assessment of aquaculture has only been carried out on Bocac Lake on the river Vrbas. In addition, the Regional Environmental Center (REC) Country Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in cooperation with the Norwegian government, has supported an assessment on part of the river Neretva.
Environmental aspects of inland water fishery such as agriculture pollution by synthetic chemical agents, illegal deforestation, soil erosion, illegal dumping sites and land use change (conversion from forests to agriculture, etc.) should be discussed in the context of general environmental protection of the terrestrial and water environment. The introduction of new fish species (alien species), usually done illegally, is a serious problem which has a negative impact on the ecological balance of the river environment. Problems that are evolving, such as those arising from climate change, should be addressed and the mitigation of their harmful effects should be considered. Bosnia and Herzegovina, currently a water rich country, may face a dwindling of this resource in the future if proper safeguards are not ensured.
The construction of dams represents the main physical modification to the water resources in the country. They are located mainly at the river Neretva (a system of 5 dams), river Trebisnjica (3 dams), river Drina, river Una and river Vrbas. In certain parts of the country, the construction of flood protection facilities has also had an impact on fish migration routes and spawning sites. This trend of dam construction and the building of hydro-electric-power stations is continuing and there are plans to build five new plants in a very short period without prior environmental impact assessment. There are currently no significant activities on rehabilitation and restoration. In the period before the war there were some attempts to control aquatic plants in certain lakes and reservoirs in the country by means of the introduction of grass carp and silver carp.
Most fish farms do not have any filters or facilities for wastewater purification. They do not have prescribed locations for the disposal of dead fish. This also has very significant negative impacts on the quality of surface and groundwater in the country.
There is some assistance from international organizations (such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Linking Agriculture and Market Program of USAID, European Commission Cards regional projects of water management) in the introduction of more active water protection measures.
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