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Fisheries are an important element of overall export of agricultural products of Republic of Croatia. The total value of exports of fisheries products in 2010 was 113 119 244 USD (29 375 tonnes) including fresh, chilled, frozen and salted products, and 22 276 036 USD (4 575 tonnes) of processed products. The total value of export reached 135 395 280 USD. Export of aquaculture products, especially farmed tuna, (total value of 42 775 405 USD in 2010) holds the very high fifth place in total export of agricultural products of Republic of Croatia.
Aquaculture is playing important role in Croatian fisheries. Farming of aquatic organisms comprises marine aquaculture and farming in fresh (inland) waters. Marine finfish farming is dominated by European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax), gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata), 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, trout-like) species, dominantly common carp (Cyprinus carpio) and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Total aquaculture production in 2010 was 20 172 tonnes.
Croatian aquaculture is managed by the Ministry of Agriculture, DevelopmentDirectorate of Fisheries. All development programmes for the sector are based on the Strategies for Croatian Fisheries of 2002; these lay down a series of objectives for both freshwater and marine aquaculture activities.
Farming of aquatic organisms in Republic of Croatia comprises marine aquaculture and farming in fresh (inland) waters. Marine aquaculture includes farming of finfish, pelagic fish and shellfish. Finfish farming 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. Finfish farming is dominated by European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata), with the production of these two species reaching some 5 000 tonnes annually. Major part of the production is placed on domestic market and the EU-market (Italy). The fish farmer register maintained by the MA (Ministry of Agriculture) contains 30 companies that have farming facilities on a total of 47 locations at sea. Three hatcheries are registered for production of fish fry. Farming of Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) 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 amounts to 3-4 000 tonnes and is exported almost entirely to Japanese market. The fish farmer register maintained by the MA contains five companies having tuna farming facilities on a total of ten locations. Shellfish farming comprises farming of Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galoprovincialis) and European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis) on longlines in production areas under monitoring as those on the western coast of Istria, Novigrad Sea, Krka river mouth, Bay of Mali Ston and Malo more. The production is based on collection of fry from nature and reaches some 2-3 000 tonnes of mussels and a 1 million pieces of oysters annually.
Freshwater aquaculture in Republic of Croatia includes production of warm-water (cyprinid or carp-like) species and cold-water (salmonid, trout-like) species. There are some 50 licensed freshwater farmers. Cyprinid aquaculture mainly involves farming of common carp (Cyprinus carpio) either in monoculture or in poly-culture with other species, predominantly grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus), bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis), silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), European (Wels) catfish (Silurus glanis), pike perch (Stizostedion lucioperca), pike (Esox lucius) and tench (Tinca tinca). The production is mainly semi-intensive, and a production cycle takes as a rule three years. Cold-water species farming mainly involves farming of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), and only in a smaller part farming of sea trout (Salmo trutta), with a production cycle of around two years. In 2010 in MA fish farmer register therewere 49 freshwater fish farming facilities, including 23 ponds, 24 tanks and raceways and two cage systems. Total production area of warm-water ponds amounted to 10 226 ha, and of cold-water facilities to 50 258 m2.
Total aquaculture production in 2010 was 20 172 tonnes, showing increase of some 10 percent when compared to 2009. Production is showing slight decrease in total when compared to previous years, due to the decrease in Atlantic bluefin tuna production. Atlantic bluefin tuna production is decreasing as the results of strong fishing restrictions regulated by ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic tunas). In the same time European seabass and gilthead seabream production is increasing by more than 10 percent annually, while shellfish production is stagnating, mainly as the result of export barriers.
Marine aquaculture in Croatia is still far from its natural potentials and predicted national strategies. Recognising marine aquaculture as very promising activity for the total development of Croatian economy, big effort has been done in order to complete total legal framework that should organise and encourage further development of this activity. Total procedure for licensing has been simplified, potential sites have been valuated and included in physical planning, and integrated coastal zone management has been used for coastal zone planning in areas where marine aquaculture is dominating. As Croatia is primarily tourist country, there was competition for place between these two activities, but using integral planning all potential conflicts could be avoided. Development of tourism is enlarging domestic fish market, when in the same time fish supply from capture fisheries can not fulfil growing demand. As aquaculture can offer fresh fish at same size and quality all year around, this offer is very important for tourist demand. Croatia is planning to start new farms and to support future development of existing farms, in terms of increased production, product diversification, higher sanitary standards, all accompanied by environment friendly technologies. It is difficult to make any forecasts for tuna farming production, as this activity is regulated by fishing restrictions. Some optimistic results have been obtained in the research of tuna spawning in captivity at Croatian farms, but these are very preliminary and definition of closed cycle tuna farming is still very far from reality.
Shellfish farming is still at small scale and very traditional. There are no big shellfish farms in Croatia, the biggest ones are producing 100-200 tonnes annually. Future development of this sector is directly depending on the opening of the EU market. The most promising activity within marine aquaculture is white fish farming that is increasing by more than 10 percent annually, and where the biggest investments have been done recently. Geographical and meteorological conditions are optimal for European seabass and gilthead seabream farming, there is long tradition in this activity, level of experience and knowledge is rather high, there are scientific institutions that are involved in this activity for very long time. It can be predicted that this activity will continue to grow by the same dynamic and will reach 10 000 tons of production within next few years.
Total production of freshwater species in 2010 amounted to some 9 500 tonnes, out of which some 6 500 tonnes of cyprinid species and some 3 000 tonnes of salmonid species. Out of the total production, the production of consume fish placed on the market in 2010 was some 5 000 tonnes. Dominant species in production are common carp and rainbow trout, followed by herbivorous species and other freshwater species, whose production remains under 50 tonnes per year. When comparing to previous years, the total production increase of some 1 000 tonnes, both in carp and trout production, can be noticed. This increase can partially be a result of the new data collection system for freshwater fish farming, which has been introduced from statistical year 2010 Croatia has sufficient resources for freshwater aquaculture, but these resources have not being used in the most economically efficient way. The effects of recent war activities have seriously affected this activity which is mostly situated in rural area, especially carp production. The consequence was a significant decline in total freshwater fish production when compared to 16 000 tonnes that have been produced before the war. Increasing of total production area from 6 000 ha in 2005 to 10 000 ha in 2010 is good sign of revitalisation of this sector. Strategic plans for stabilising freshwater fisheries have introduced inclusion in the State budget of a special budget line ‘maintenance of fish farm ecosystem’, to assist fish farmers dealling with predatory birds and also to help protect biological and environmental diversity of fish ponds. As 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 going to become part of EU NATURA 2000 ecological network. MA has put additional efforts to help this activity, by suggesting mechanisms for decreasing of high water usage taxes, as well as for simplifying of complicated licensing procedure. It is expected that with better state strategy and better organisation within industry itself, this activity could continue to grow up to 20 000 tonnes of annual production by the end of this decade.
Total number of employees working in aquaculture in 2010 was 1 250.
Based on Marine Fisheries Act and Freshwater Fisheries Act each aquaculture farm is obliged to employ technical staff who has passed special exam for fish farmers. This exam is defined and organised within MA. Marine Fisheries Act is predicting adoption of new ordinance which is going to define production capacity by species that will oblige farm owners to employ or contract university degree staff.
There are some 200 stakeholders in Croatian marine aquaculture. Marine fish production includes 35, and shellfish 120 stakeholders. Production is realised through 63 fish farms, including three hatcheries, and 223 shellfish farms. Freshwater aquaculture includes 47 stakeholders with 49 fish farms. The majority of carp farms is 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 2010 total production area of carp ponds amounted to 10 226 ha, and of trout farming facilities to 50 258 m2.
The majority of farms are small enterprises, private investments and family run businesses.
Total freshwater aquaculture production in 2010 amounted to 9 542 tonnes, out of which 6 507 tonnes of cyprinid species and 3 035 tonnes of salmonid species. Freshwater aquaculture production of warm water species comprises common carp (Cyprinus carpio 56 percent of the total freshwater production), grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus 4 percent), bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis 5.5 percent), silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix 1 percent), European (Wels) catfish (Silurus glanis 0.5 percent), pike (Esox lucius 0.1 percent), pike perch (Stizostedion lucioperca 0.1 percent) and 0.5 percent of less important finfish species. Freshwater production of cold water species, is primarily focused to one species, the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss 31.4 percent of the total freshwater production), while production of sea trout (Salmo trutta) remains over the past years below 50 tonnes per year (0.4 percent of the total freshwater production).
The farming of marine fish in Croatia consists mainly of European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax), with a total production in 2010 of 2 800 tonnes, in second place is gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) with 2 400 tonnes. Of particular importance is the production of Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus). Tuna production started in 1996, with a total of 39 tonnes, and in 2010 reached 3 368 tonnes. Cultivated mollusc species comprise the Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis), with a production of 2 000 tonnes in 2010, and the European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis) with a production in 2010 of 60 tonnes (MA).
Salmonid species production usually takes place in tanks and raceway flow-through systems, using natural wells or clean river water. Trout production is mostly based on controlled spawning and intensive culture is used, with the production cycle of around two years.
The culture of European seabass and gilthead seabream is based on closed cycle which includes controlled spawning and fry production in hatcheries on land. Ongrowing involves the use of semi-offshore floating cage systems. All farms most commonly use flexible round plastic cages.
The aim of tuna farming is feeding of captured fish in order to increase the weight and improve the meat quality. This technology involves intensive feeding of tuna for a period of six months to three years. In most cases, fresh sardines are used as feed, but herring, sprat and even cephalopods are fed to tuna. The production involves the use of offshore floating cage systems. Cages are large structures usually 30 to 50 m in circumference, although sometimes up to 150 m. Mediterranean mussel culture starts with the collection in small productive bays of spat which are later introduced in hollow netlike cylinders. These interwoven mussels are hung on ropes spread between holding buoys to a depth of 5 m. Adhesion of the young mussel spat takes place in collectors made of plastic plates lowered on a rope which hangs vertically in the seawater column. Some farmers use small plastic baskets which are lowered to the rearing facilities.
The war and economic changes in the first half of the 1990s resulted in a significant fall in production. This is primarily the result of the devastation caused by the war and the country's resultant economic isolation, as well as the transitional post-communist changes in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Freshwater aquaculture output, especially of carp, has been hard hit in recent years. At the same time, despite all the hardships, marine culture has emerged in good condition and even increased output. Over the last 10 years the largest aquaculture production was in 2010 with 20 110 tonnes and a total value of about USD 120 million. The main species produced have been carp and trout, tuna, seabass, seabream and mussels.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Croatia according to FAO statistics:
Market organization of fisheries products in Republic of Croatia is based on cooperatives, buy-off stations and registered first buyers. Republic of Croatia is in the process of setting up of producer's organizations, in order to be able to activate all available mechanisms of market organization. The total value of exports of fisheries products in 2010 was 113 119 244 USD (29 375 tonnes) including fresh, chilled, frozen and salted products, and 22 276 036 USD (4 575 tonnes) of processed products. The total value of export reached 135 395 280 USD. Export of farmed tuna (total value of 42 775 405 USD in 2010) holds the very high fifth place in total export of agricultural products of Republic of Croatia. The value of imported products in 2010 was significantly lower than the value of exports. The total value of imports of fisheries products in 2010 was 78 433 000 USD, and the quantity imported was 34 865 tonnes. The most important imported commodity was frozen herring (for tuna consumption) and frozen squid. Processed products reached 6.346 tons of imported quantities, with a total value of 23 967 654 USD. The volume of fish imported exceeds exports, primarily due to the high volume of low value, frozen small-pelagic imports for the Atlantic bluefin tuna farming industry. Exports of fish and fish products are dominated (in value and volume terms) by Atlantic bluefin tuna exported to Japan. Other exports include farmed European seabass and gilthead seabream and canned fish (tuna and small pelagic species). Fresh fish which is exported mainly to Italy includes octopus, gilthead seabream, European seabass, monkfish and crustaceans. The most important exporting markets are Japan for tuna, Italy for fresh fish and Spain for salted products.
The most significant aquaculture products traded on domestic market are sea bass and sea bream. Less than 40 percent of total production is exported, mainly due to the fact that better prices could be obtained at domestic market, and that export taxes are making additional pressure to the high production costs. The great majority of marine and freshwater farms has a production oriented output and does not provide any marketing research, which leads to difficulties in marketing and price stability. Domestic market is seriously underestimated and there is a strong need for proper marketing strategy based on different research activities.
Fresh water aquaculture export is decreasing and in 2010 it was 1 737 tonnes. In the same time import is increasing, and in 2010 it was more than double when compared to export (3 634 tonnes). Farmed European seabass and gilthead seabream export is increasing and in 2010 it was 1 850 tonnes. Export of these products is burdened by EU import quotas. In the same time the import is increasing as well, but it is insignificant when compared to the export. Although the market for farmed European seabass and gilthead seabream has expanded over the past 20 years, the main market remains Italy. Tuna from farms is exported to Japanese market fresh, round, gilled and gutted, directly to Japanese processing vessels. Minor quantity is exported to United States of America by aero transportation. Export of farmed tuna is directly related to fisheries restriction. It is evident that export has been increasing up to its maximum in 2006 (6 087 tonnes) when strong fishing restrictions have been introduced.
According to the CBS, in 2007 the gross value added of the Croatian fisheries sector was about USD 118 million. Fisheries contribute a total of about 0.2-0.3 percent to GDP, so does not contribute significantly to the national economy However, recent analysis 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 in Croatia - only 8 kg/year or about 12 percent of the total meat consumption per person.
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. Within the Ministry is the Directorate of Fisheries which is responsible for passing and implementing regulations. The Association of Fishery, Aquaculture and Fish Processing is established within Croatian Chamber of Economy and Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts.
There have been significant changes regarding the regulatory framework for fisheries and aquaculture in Croatia over the recent period due to the process of harmonization with the European Union acquis communautaire. There are three main laws governing the sector of fisheries: Marine fisheries act, Freshwater fisheries act and Act on structural support and organization of market in fisheries. With regards to the aquaculture, mentioned regulatory framework covers the related issues as follows: Marine fisheries act covers the segment of mariculture, Freshwater fisheries act covers the segment of freshwater fisheries aquaculture while the Act on structural support and organization of market in fisheries covers horizontally the entire sector, including the mariculture and aquaculture. The Act on structural support and organization of market in fisheries contains provisions on establishing the structural and market policy in the sector as well as on establishing the special status aid (state aid), all in line with the relevant provisions of the EU acquis communautaire.
Various support schemes and incentives are available in Croatia to assist in sustainable development of fisheries and aquaculture. The support schemes available through the framework of the Act on structural support and organization of market in fisheries primarily refer to measures for productive investments in aquaculture, aqua-environmental measures, public health measures and animal health measures. Apart from the mentioned measures available through the framework of the Act, there are other support schemes for sustainable development of aquaculture such as aid for insurance from possible damages, the right to use blue diesel, an aid for maintenance of fish pond ecosystems, co-financing breeding/selection works in aquaculture and aid for establishment and development of fishery co-operatives.
In addition to its legislative work, the Ministry of Agriculture also supports on an annual basis projects on current topics in aquaculture and fisheries,. The Ministry of Science, Education and Sports provides finance for scientific research and education, this Ministry ensures basic financial support (salaries, direct operational costs) and financial means for scientific projects in fisheries, agriculture, physics, chemistry or other scientific fields. For certain specific projects finance is sometimes secured from NGO's or other ministries, such as the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Physical Planning and Construction. Scientific research in fisheries is carried out in different institutions, like the Ruđer Bošković Institute (Zagreb)and the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries (in Split and Dubrovnik, as well as across a range of faculties (Faculty of Science and Faculty of Agronomy in Zagreb, Faculty of Agriculture in Osijek).. Higher educational training in aquaculture and fisheries is well developed in Croatia, fish culture 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. There are marine/fisheries faculties at Universities in Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik and Osijek. The University of Split (Institute for Marine and Coastal Research), IOF (Institute for Oceanography and Fisheries) in Split and the University of Dubrovnik also provide PhD studies in applied marine science. Further, at University of Zagreb there is Veterinary Faculty. Trainings in food safety area are organized by Veterinary Inspection Directorate, Laboratories and Croatian Chamber of Economy
Development issues, trends and objectives for aquaculture were published in the Strategies for Croatian Fisheries 2002.
For freshwater aquaculture the main objectives are as follows:
1. Develop and modernise the mariculture production sector:
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