Replaces: Arabic version (2005), Spanish version (2005), French version (2005), Chinese version (2005)
As an economic activity with a long tradition, aquaculture is playing an important role in Croatian fisheries. The share of aquaculture in the total fishery production exceeded 21 percent, which is higher than the EU average of 20.4 percent. In the past several years the share has decreased up to 19 percent, mostly due to the decline in tuna, shellfish and trout production, but also due to an increase in the catch.
Apart from its economic value, aquaculture has significant social effect, particularly at the local level. It represents an economic activity that provides employment for local population during the whole year, and may reduce the trend of depopulation of rural area and sensitive island communities.
Farming of aquatic organisms in Republic of Croatia comprises marine and freshwater aquaculture. Marine finfish farming is dominated by European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax), gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) with the production of these two species exceeding 8 500 tonnes in 2015, and Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus). Shellfish farming comprises farming of Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis) and European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis). Freshwater aquaculture includes production of warm-water (cyprinid or carp-like) species and cold-water (salmonid or trout-like) species, dominantly common carp (Cyprinus carpio) and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Total aquaculture production in 2015 was 16 875 tonnes.
Croatian aquaculture is managed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Directorate of Fisheries.
Farming of aquatic organisms in Republic of Croatia comprises marine and freshwater aquaculture. Marine aquaculture includes farming of finfish, pelagic fish and shellfish. Finfish farming has started in the 1970s. Development of the sector was interrupted by recent war activities and it took a long time to consolidate. Marine aquaculture has completely recovered and now represents the fastest growing part of total aquaculture sector in Croatia. Production involves a closed farming cycle, where the first phases take place in a hatchery, and then in the floating cages at sea. The farming activities are wide-spread in all Croatian coastal counties, but predominantly in Zadar County. Major part of the production is placed on domestic market and the EU-market (Italy). Four land-based hatcheries are registered for production of fish fry, but great part of juveniles is still imported from Italy and France. Farming of Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) in Croatia has started in 1990s. Production is based on capture of wild tunas and their subsequent farming to the market size. Farming takes place in floating cages at sea, in Split-Dalmatia County and dominantly in Zadar County. Annual production of Atlantic bluefin tuna has been stagnating in last few years due to the restriction measures in tuna fishery managed by ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Bluefin tuna). Production in 2015 was about 2 600 tonnes. Almost the entire tuna production is placed on the Japanese market. Shellfish farming has the longest tradition in Croatia, there are written evidences about oysters farming from 16th century in Mali Ston Bay. Farming includes Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galoprovincialis) and European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis), using traditional farming technology of floating parks. All shellfish production areas, like those on the western coast of Istria, Novigrad Sea, Krka river mouth, Bay of Mali Ston and Malo more, are continuously monitored by the State (monitoring of water quality). The production is based on collection of fry from nature and has reached about 750 tonnes of mussels and about 50 tonnes of oysters in 2015.
Marine aquaculture in Croatia has a long tradition, which together with the advantage of highly favorable environmental conditions, contribute to the development of this activity. Recognizing marine aquaculture as very promising activity for the development of Croatian economy, big effort has been done in order to improve administrative and legal framework that should manage and encourage further development of this activity. Total procedure for licensing has been simplified, potential sites have been evaluated and included in physical planning, and integrated coastal zone management has been used for coastal zone planning in areas where marine aquaculture is dominating to avoid potential conflicts with other activities, primarly tourism (e.g. Zadar County, which has defined allocated zones for aquaculture).
The most promising activity within marine aquaculture is finfish farming, which is increasing by more than 10 percent annually, and where the biggest investments have been done recently. Environmental and climate conditions are optimal for European seabass and gilthead seabream farming, there is long tradition in this activity, and level of experience and knowledge, together with scientific support, are rather high. Atlantic bluefin tuna production has been stagnating in last several years due to restrictions in tuna fishery, but expected future increase of catch quotas shall have positive effect to farming as well. Shellfish farming is still at small scale and very traditional. The biggest shellfish farms in Croatia are producing some 100 to 200 tonnes annually. The early beginnings of freshwater aquaculture in the Republic of Croatia are associated with the end of the 19th century, when the first trout and carp farms have been established. Favourable environmental conditions in relation to the availability of space and quality of water resources are of great importance for the development of this segment of Croatian aquaculture.
Freshwater aquaculture in Republic of Croatia includes production of warm-water (cyprinid or carp-like) species and cold-water (salmonid, trout-like) species. Cyprinid aquaculture mainly involves farming of common carp (Cyprinus carpio) either in monoculture or in poly-culture with other species, predominantly grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis), silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), European (Wels) catfish (Silurus glanis), pike perch (Stizostedion lucioperca), pike (Esox lucius) and tench (Tinca tinca). In ponds the production is mainly based on natural feed, while additional feeding is mostly done with cereals. A production cycle takes about three years. Cold-water species farming mainly involves farming of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), and only in a smaller part farming of brown trout (Salmo trutta), with a production cycle of around two years.
In the last decade, the total production of freshwater fish has been fluctuating, with the peak of production in 2009, amounting to over 7 000 tonnes. In 2012 and 2013 there was a notable decline in production, due to the significant decline in production of rainbow trout. This decline in production should be viewed primarily in the context of the new system of collecting and presenting statistical data since 2010. In addition to the production of market size fish, the production of the one-year and two-year juvenile fish for further farming (ongrowing categories) totals approximately 3 000 tonnes per year. Dominant species in freshwater aquaculture is common carp, followed by rainbow trout and herbivorous species, while the production of other freshwater species remains under 50 tonnes by species per year. As the importance of this sector is not only food production, but also maintaining of biological diversity, many fish ponds are part of Croatian ecological network which is the part of EU NATURA 2000 ecological network. Aiming at set up conditions for further development of freshwater aquaculture additional efforts have been done recently to improve administrative framework for this activity, especially in terms of agricultural land and inland waters use, by awarding of the majority of the state owned ponds in the 50-years lease and reducing of high water usage taxes to minimum. It is expected that with an appropriate legislative framework and better organisation within industry itself, this activity could continue to grow.
According to the data of the MA-DoF, the number of persons employed in aquaculture is fluctuating between 1 000 and 1 150 for the period 2012 - 2015. In addition to direct employment, aquaculture also influences the development of a number of accompanying activities and, in case of tuna farming, provides continuous employment of the fishery fleet whose primary activity is catching small pelagic fish for tuna feeding. Based on Marine Fisheries Act and Freshwater Fisheries Act each aquaculture farm is obliged to employ technical staff who has passed special aquaculture exam.
Fish farming is distributed in semi closed areas in almost all coastal counties; however, it has a largest share in Zadar County. There are 35 companies registered for finfish farming on a total of 63 locations at sea, while 9 locations are licensed for polyculture (farming of fish and shellfish). There are also 4 land-based hatcheries. Tuna farming takes place in floating cages at sea, in Split-Dalmatia County and dominantly in Zadar County. There are 4 companies registered for tuna farming on a total of 10 locations. Oysters are in general farmed in the area of Malostonski Bay and Malo More, while mussels are mostly farmed in the area of western coast of Istria, area of the river Krka estuary, and in Novigrad Sea. There are 124 registered shellfish farmers on a total of 280 locations.
In 2015 there were a total of 42 registered freshwater fish farmers, performing the registered activity of freshwater farming at a total of 47 locations, 24 of which are carp farms and 23 of which are trout farms. The majority of carp farms are situated in the continental part of Croatia, covering large production areas, while trout farms can be in general found in the mountainous parts of Croatia where adequate amounts of clean, cold running waters can be provided. In 2015 the total production area of carp farms was 9 917 ha, while the total production area of trout farms was about 51 ha. The majority of farms are small-size and medium-size enterprises, private investments and family run businesses.
Total freshwater aquaculture production in 2015 amounted to 4 832 tonnes, out of which 4 153 tonnes of cyprinid species and 679 tonnes of salmonid species. Production of warm water species comprises common carp (Cyprinus carpio) - 3 401 tonnes, grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus) - 132 tonnes, bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) - 295 tonnes, silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) - 174 tonnes, European (Wels) catfish (Silurus glanis) - 48 tonnes, northern pike (Esox lucius) – 9 tonnes, pike-perch (Sander lucioperca) – 10 tonnes, and other less important freshwater species with total production of 85 tonnes. Freshwater production of cold water species in 2015 was 666 tonnes of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), and 13 tonnes of sea trout (Salmo trutta).
The marine aquaculture production in 2015 was 12 043 tonnes, out of which 4 488 tonnes of European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax), 4 075 tonnes of gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata), 67 tonnes of meagre (Argyrosomus regius ), 4 tonnes of common dentex (Dentex dentex), 7 tonnes of turbot (Psetta maxima) 746 tonnes of Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis), 52 tonnes of the European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis) and 2 603 tonnes of Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus).
Trout species are mostly farmed in concrete tanks with water flow systems which enable multiple water replacement. Trout farms are usually situated in hill and mountainous regions of Croatia, where there are fast flowing cold waters of high quality, which is a prerequisite for this type of production. The process of trout farming is mostly based on controlled spawning, with the production cycle of approximately 2 years. The fish are fed with balanced complete industrial food.
The farming of the marine fish species is performed in floating cages using modern technologies and includes a fully closed farming cycle, from controlled spawning to a market-size product. The production of juveniles is performed in land-based hatcheries, Tuna farming is based on capture of small tuna (8-10 kg) that are then farmed until they reach the market size (30 or more kg). Fish are fed by small pelagic or herrings. As almost the entire tuna production is placed on the Japanese market, the quantity and quality of fats in tuna meat is very important for sushi and sashimi market.
The shellfish are farmed using traditional farming technology of floating parks in controlled production areas. The farming process is based entirely on the collection of immature shellfish from the sea, since there are no shellfish hatcheries. The conservation of traditional method of farming oysters in the Malostonski Bay represents a challenge for adding greater value to the final product with regard to protecting its origin and developing a specific marketing strategy, while farming of mussels requires implementation of new technologies. With regard to the production intensity and the natural characteristics of most of the areas where shellfish are farmed, there is an additional potential in taking up the activity of ecological farming.
Total aquaculture production in 2015 was 16 875 tonnes, with a total value of about 102,7 million EUR, showing increase in total when compared to previous years. In the last five-years period the aquaculture production was stable, showing increase in 2015. There was a decline in Atlantic bluefin tuna production related to the fishing restrictions, as well as in shellfish and freshwater aquaculture production. In the same time significant increase is evident in seabass and seabream production. With 66 percent of production, marine fish has the largest share in the total aquaculture production in 2015, with the share of freshwater fish of 29 percent, and the share of shellfish of 5 percent.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Croatia according to FAO statistics:
The total export of aquaculture products in 2015 was 10 610 tonnes (2 032 tonnes of freshwater and 8 578 tonnes of marine aquaculture products), with total value of 78.6 million EUR (2.7 and 75.9 respectively). Exports of fish and fish products are dominated (in value and volume terms) by Atlantic bluefin tuna exported to Japan and European seabass and gilthead seabream exported mainly to Italy.
In the past five-years period the growth in the quantity of exports of aquaculture products is evident, which reached a maximum of 7 440 tonnes in 2011, mostly due to tuna export. In 2012 there was a decline in exports, mostly because of the decline in tuna farming, which started to increase again from 2013, Total export continued to increase up to 10 610 tonnes in 2015. The share of aquaculture in the quantity and value of total fishery product exports is increasing continuously.
It is important to emphasize that before the accession to the European seabass and gilthead seabream export (and all other products derived from these species) to the EU market was restricted by duty free quotes, which had a direct impact on the exports. In the last 3 years there was a growth in the quantity of European seabass and gilthead seabream placed on EU market, increasing from 53 percent of total production of European seabass in 2013 to 69 percent in 2015, and 52 percent of gilthead seabream in 2013 to 69 percent in 2015. The average price for European seabass is slightly higher at domestic market when compared to the EU market, while for gilthead seabream is opposite.
The total value of Atlantic bluefin tuna exported was 29.5 million EUR in 2014 and 37.8 million EUR in 2015, Atlantic bluefin tuna is exported almost exclusively to the Japanese market, but in 2015 producers have started to export small quantities of fresh tuna to different EU and United States of America markets.
The total production of shellfish was placed almost exclusively on the national market, while 2.4 percent was exported to EU, Serbia and Montenegro.
The majority of freshwater fish produced is intended for national market (approximately 58 percent), although in the last years, a great part of the products were also placed on the EU market (Italy, Germany, Hungary, etc.). Traditionally important markets for Croatian producers of freshwater fish were the Countries in the region, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro. However, the Croatian accession to the European Union and the concurrent exit from Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) resulted in unfavourable tariff conditions on the markets in these countries, resulting in opening of the new markets for the freshwater aquaculture products within the EU (Austria, Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania).
According to the available statistical data fisheries does not contribute significantly to the national economy. However, recent analyses indicate that real contribution of the fisheries sector to the national economy has been underestimated. If the value of an informal sector and accompanying activities related to fisheries is to be taken into account, the contribution of fisheries in national GDP exceeds 1 percent. Per capita consumption of fish is low when compared to other EU counties – only about 8–10 kg/year. This indicates a great potential for the future aquaculture development, in terms of the increasing of the national consumption of aquaculture products.
The Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for the overall administration of aquaculture and fisheries, for ensuring the legislative and economic framework and for providing related legislative control tasks. The fisheries sector in Croatia, and especially the activity of aquaculture, is organized primarily through a chamber system. There is an Agriculture, Food Industry and Forestry Department within the Croatian Chamber of Economy (CCE), which was organized into associations, councils and groups. One of the associations is the Association of Fisheries and Fish Processing, a part of which is the Aquaculture group which acts through the Committee for Freshwater Farming and Committee for Mariculture. The Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts (CCTC) is also active, as an association of crafts founded for the purposes of promoting, harmonizing and representing common interests of crafts. With regard to the activity of aquaculture, the CCTC members are mostly shellfish farmers.
The aquaculture activity in Croatia is regulated by a number of regulations. There is no single regulation governing aquaculture, but there is a special chapter within the Marine Fisheries Act (OG 81/13, 14/14, 152/14) and a special chapter regulating aquaculture within the Freshwater Fisheries Act (OG 106/01, 7/03, 174/04, 10/05-amendments and 49/05-revised text, 14/14). Based on these acts, there is a number of sub regulations in force regulating the specific issues of marine and freshwater aquaculture, such as granting of farming licenses, obligation to pass a specialized exam prior to engaging in aquaculture, determining the criteria for spatial positioning of the farms and procedures for data collection in aquaculture.
The specific issues related to the aquaculture in terms of environment and nature protection, animal health and welfare, etc., are regulated by the different specific acts and regulations. Draft of new specific regulation named Aquaculture Act is ready for public hearing and is planned to be in force in 2017. This Act is going to be unique for marine and freshwater aquaculture, aiming to simplify administrative procedure, regulate farming of alien species, set conditions for freshwater aquaculture zones, set the frame for the whole-life education for aquaculture farmers, and to improve overall regulative framework for aquaculture.
According to the National Standard Classification of Education (NSCE), the activity of aquaculture belongs to the sixth education group including agriculture, forestry and fisheries. According to the scientific categorization, aquaculture belongs to the biotechnical group of sciences, agriculture field, and fisheries branch. In a more general sense, the education also includes groups referring to veterinary medicine and natural sciences, and according to the categorization of science, aquaculture is also included in the field of food technology, and the area of natural sciences, field of biology. Education in aquaculture is performed by academic institutions. Aquaculture is one of the optional subjects for BSc degrees at several universities. Post-graduate training, MSc and PhD programmes are also offered by several Universities. Specific education and informing in aquaculture has also been implemented by the competent institutions of the State, like Ministry of Agriculture and its Advisory Service, and, periodically, other institutions, such as Agriculture and Fisheries Agency, Croatian Chamber of Economy which for almost ten years has provided international economic and scientific consultation on aquaculture and has financed the publishing of the scientific and expert magazine Croatian Journal of Fisheries. The education and informing is provided through lectures, workshops and consultations and by publications, brochures, media and the Internet. Nevertheless there is still not lifelong learning framework defined.
Scientific research in aquaculture in Croatia is performed by institutions like Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries (in Split and Dubrovnik), Ruđer Bošković Institute (Zagreb), Veterinarian Institute (Zagreb) as well as by academic institutions (Faculty of Science and Faculty of Agronomy in Zagreb, Faculty of Agriculture in Osijek),
Research and scientific institutions in Croatia have a long-standing cooperation with institutions in other Countries (both in the EU and non-EU Countries), which in the past guaranteed a successful transfer of knowledge, technologies and technological solutions. Due to the long-standing experience in the production itself, the cooperation of business subjects with producers in other countries has also helped in the process of the transfer of knowledge and technologies.
The Republic of Croatia has adopted the multi-annual National Strategic Plan for Aquaculture 2014-2020 (NSPA). The NSPA is important both from the viewpoint of planning and positioning of aquaculture activities, as well as from the viewpoint of fulfilling the necessary conditions for the use of European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). As a strategic document, the NSPA defines the objectives and priorities for aquaculture development in the 2014-2020 period. By the end of 2020, the total production in aquaculture is expected to increase more than double, while adhering to the principles of economic, social and environmental sustainability. The general objectives also include improving the social and business environment in aquaculture development, increasing the national consumption of aquaculture products, and increasing the employment in the aquaculture industry, while furthering the development of local communities.
In accordance with the European Commission Strategic Guidelines for Sustainable Development of EU Aquaculture, NSPA emphasizes the following objectives: simplifying administrative procedures, ensuring sustainable development and growth through coordinated spatial planning and ensuring necessary aquaculture locations, increasing competitiveness, especially by connecting the scientific community and the sector, and creating a fair market competition.