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  1. Characteristics, structure and resources of the sector
    1. Summary
    2. History and general overview
    3. Human resources
    4. Farming systems distribution and characteristics
    5. Cultured species
    6. Practices/systems of culture
  2. Sector performance
    1. Production
    2. Market and trade
    3. Contribution to the economy
  3. Promotion and management of the sector
    1. The institutional framework
    2. The governing regulations
    3. Applied research, education and training
  1. Trends, issues and development
    1. References
      1. Bibliography
      2. Related links
    Characteristics, structure and resources of the sector
    As an economic activity with a long tradition, aquaculture is playing an important role in Croatian fisheries. By 2010 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 two years the share has decreased to 19 percent, mostly due to the decline in tuna 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 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 or trout-like) species, dominantly common carp (Cyprinus carpio) and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Total aquaculture production in 2013 was 13 709 tonnes.

    Croatian aquaculture is managed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Directorate of Fisheries.
    History and general overview
    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 exceeding 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 Ministry of Agriculture-Directorate of Fisheries (MA-DoF) contains 30 companies that have finfish farming facilities on a total of 45 locations at sea, while 10 locations are licensed for polyculture (farming of fish and shellfish). Four land-based hatcheries are registered for production of fish fry, which amounts to some 20 000 000 juveniles annually. This production covers less than 50 percent of the needs of the installed farming capacities, so a great part of juveniles is imported from Italy and France.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 has been stagnating in last few years from some 2 000 – 3 000 tonnes , due to the restriction measures in tuna fishery managed by ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Bluefin tuna). Almost the entire tuna production is placed on the Japanese market. The MA-DoF’s fish farmer register contains four companies having tuna farming facilities on a total of 14 locations. Shellfish farming comprises farming of Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galoprovincialis) and European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis), using traditional farming technology of floating parks. 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 reaches some 2 000 tonnes of mussels and some 50 tonnes 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 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 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 brown trout (Salmo trutta), with a production cycle of around two years. In 2013 in MA-DoF’s fish farmer register there were 54 freshwater fish farming facilities, including 27 carp farms and 27 trout farms. In 2013 total production area of warm-water ponds amounted to 10 521 ha, and of cold-water facilities to 38 407 m2.

    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 (for exp. Zadar County, which has defined alocated zones for aquaculture). It is important to emphasize that when preparing the spatial plans for all of the farms of marine organisms in Croatia, all the standards of environmental and nature protection was respected.

    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. If this activity will continue to grow by the same dynamic it is possible to reach 10 000 tonnes of production by the end of this decade. Atlantic bluefin tuna production has been stagnating in last several years due to restrictions placed on tuna fishery, but expected future increase of catch quotas shall have positive effect to farming quantities. Shellfish farming is still at small scale and very traditional. The biggest shellfish farms in Croatia are producing some 100 to 200 tonnes annually. With opening of the EU market, future development of this sector and increase of production, especially in mussel farming, is to be expected.

    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. 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 is partly due to the unfavourable climate conditions in the previous years (the droughts in 2010 and 2011), but should be also viewed in the context of the new system of collecting and presenting statistical data since 2010. In addition to the production of consumable fish, the production of the one-year and two-year juvenile fish for the purposes of 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 annual production of other freshwater species remains under 50 tonnes. 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, by suggesting mechanisms for decreasing of high water usage taxes, as well as for simplifying of complicated licensing procedure. It is expected that with an appropriate legislative framework and better organisation within industry itself, this activity could continue to grow up to over 6 000 tonnes of annual production by the end of this decade.
    Human resources
    According to the data of the Croatian Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the number of persons employed in aquaculture generally exceeded 700 in the 2003 – 2009 period, after which it rose to around 1 200 in the period until 2012. 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. 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.
    Farming systems distribution and characteristics
    In 2013 there were a total of 148 registered farmers in mariculture, out of which 117 were shellfish farmers, 30 were fish farmers including 4 tuna farmers. The farming was performed at a total of 330 locations, out of which 257 are locations for shellfish, 45 are locations for the fish farming, including 14 for tuna farming, and 10 are polyculture locations (farming of fish and shellfish). The fish farming is performed in almost all the coastal counties; however, it has a largest share in the total production in the Zadar County. Farming of shellfish is performed in production areas continuously monitored by the state (monitoring of water quality). Oysters are in general farmed in the area of Malostonski Bay and Malo More, while mussels are mostly farmed in the area of the western coast of Istria, the area of the river Krka estuary, and in Novigrad Sea.

    In 2013 there were a total of 48 registered freshwater fish farmers, performing the registered activity of freshwater farming at a total of 54 locations, 27 of which are carp farms and 27 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 2013 the total production area of carp farms was 10 521 ha, while the total production area of trout farms was 38 407 m2. The majority of farms are small-size and medium-size enterprises, private investments and family run businesses.
    Cultured species
    Total freshwater aquaculture production in 2013 amounted to 3  235 tonnes, out of which 2  884 tonnes of cyprinid species and 351 tonnes of salmonid species. Production of warm water species comprises common carp (Cyprinus carpio) - 2 100 tonnes, grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus) - 209 tonnes, bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) - 303 tonnes, silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) - 127 tonnes, European (Wels) catfish (Silurus glanis ) - 35 tonnes, pike (Esox lucius) – 6 tonnes, pike perch (Sander lucioperca) – 11 tonnes, and other less important freshwater species with total production of 93 tonnes. Freshwater production of cold water species, is primarily focused to one species, the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), which production in 2013 was 345 tonnes. The production of brown trout (Salmo trutta) amounted to 6 tonnes per year.

    The total production in mariculture in 2013 was 10 474 tonnes, out of which there were 2 826 tonnes of sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax), 2 978 tonnes of gilt-head bream (Sparus aurata), 44 tonnes of meagre (Argyrosomus regius), 6 tonnes of common dentex (Dentex dentex), 1 950 tonnes of Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis), 50 tonnes of the European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis) and 2 616 tonnes of Atlantic bluefin tuna (Tunnus thynnus). The species predominately farmed are the European seabass, gilt-head bream and tuna.
    Practices/systems of culture
    Carp aquaculture is traditionally carried out on large farms using ponds, which have an area of several hundred or even more than thousand hectares. Most of the carp ponds are situated near larger river basins in the continental part of Croatia. The farming of cyprinid species mostly encompasses the controlled farming of carp (Cyprinus carpio) in monoculture or polyculture with other species, predominantly grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis), silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), wels catfish (Silurus glanis), zander (Stizostedion lucioperca), northern pike (Esox lucius), and tench (Tinca tinca). The production is in general performed by feeding the fish with both the natural food, which is produced by biological processes in the farms aided by agricultural and technical measures (fertilisation, etc.), and additional food, mostly cereals (corn, wheat, rye, barley). The production cycle in carp farming mostly lasts for three years.

    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 farming of salmonid species almost completely encompasses the farming of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), while the brown trout (Salmo trutta) is only present in a small percentage (< 1 percent). The process of trout farming is mostly based on controlles spawning, with the production cycle of approximately 2 years. The fish are fed with balanced complete industrial food.

    The farming of the European seabass and the gilt-head bream 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 the European sea bass and the gilt-head bream juveniles is performed in land-based hatcheries, with approximately 20 000 000 juveniles produced annually. This production covers less than 50 percent of the needs of the installed farming capacities, so a great part of juveniles is imported from Italy and France. Tuna farming (Thunnus thynnus) is performed in floating cages on semi-open and open areas of the middle Adriatic, in the area of the Zadar County and the Split-Dalmatia County. 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). Almost the entire tuna production is placed on the Japanese market. Significant effort is made in the development and research projects whose objective is to ensure the closing of the tuna farming cycle.

    The Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galoprovincialis) and the European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis) are farmed using traditional farming technology of floating parks in monitored production areas. Oysters are for the most part farmed in the area of Malostonski Bay and Malo More, while mussels are mostly farmed in the area of the western coast of Istria, the area of the river Krka estuary, and in Novigrad Sea. 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.
    Sector performance
    Total aquaculture production in 2013 was 13 709 tonnes, with a total value of about 108 million USD, showing decrease in total when compared to previous years. In the last five-year period the aquaculture production showed a growth trend until 2011, after which there was a decline in 2012 and 2013, mostly due to the stagnation in Atlantic bluefin tuna production related to the fishing restrictions, as well as to the decrease in freshwater aquaculture production. The main species produced have been seabass, seabream, tuna, carp and mussels. With 62 percent of production, marine fish has the largest share in the total aquaculture production in 2013, with the share of freshwater fish of 24 percent, and the share of shellfish of 14 percent.

    The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Croatia according to FAO statistics:

    Reported aquaculture production in Croatia (from 1950)
    (FAO Fishery Statistic)

    Market and trade
    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 exports of fisheries products in 2013 was 32 302 tonnes, with the total value of some 147 million USD. 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 that are as the fresh fish exported mainly to Italy.

    In the past five-year 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 was increased again in 2013. The share of aquaculture in the total quantity of fishery product exports has increased continuously and in the last two years amounted to 22 percent. The value of the aquaculture product exports has continuously increased by 2011, while in 2012 there was a slight decline due to the decline in tuna export. In the past two years, the share of the aquaculture product value in the total value of fishery product export amounted to 58 percent.

    In the past 5 years an average of 50 percent of the total sea bass production was placed on the local market while the rest was placed on the EU market (mostly Italy) and exported. Higher price was obtained on the local market. It is important to emphasize that before the accession to the EU seabass export (and all other products derived from this species) to the EU market was restricted by duty free quotes, which had a direct impact on the exports. In the last 5 years there was a growth in gilthead bream exports, with the higher price at the national when compared to the EU market.

    Tuna farming is a very important part of Croatian fisheries industry and is one of the promoters of Croatian mariculture growth. The annual value of farmed tuna is between USD 60 and 80 million, and the tuna is exported exclusively to the Japanese market. Owing to tuna farming, Croatia has a positive export balance in fishery products.

    The total production of shellfish was placed exclusively on the national market due to the impossibility of export to the EU market until the Croatian accession to the EU. The opening of the EU market presents an opportunity for the Croatian producers for the further development of this segment of farming, especially with regard to farming of mussels, for which the implementation of modern farming technologies shall be required.

    The majority of freshwater fish produced is intended for national market (approximately 85 percent), although in the last years, a great part of the products were also placed on the EU market (Italy, Germany, Hungary, etc.). While the export of the rainbow trout is negligible, there has been a growth in carp export. 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 CEFTA resulted in unfavourable tariff conditions on the markets in these countries.

    It also should be emphasized that 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.
    Contribution to the economy
    According to the available statistical data 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 about 8 kg/year. This indicates a great potential for the future aquaculture development, in terms of the increasing of the national consumption of aquaculture products.
    Promotion and management of the sector
    The institutional framework
    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 fisheries and aquaculture regulations. The fisheries sector in Croatia, and especially the activity of aquaculture, is organised primarily through a chamber system. There is an Agriculture, Food Industry and Forestry Department within the Croatian Chamber of Economy (CCE), which was organised 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 governing regulations
    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) and a special chapter 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 regulations in force regulating the specific issues of marine and freshwater aquaculture, such as granting of farming permits (licenses), obligation to take a specialized test prior to engaging in aquaculture, determining the criteria for spatial positioning of mariculture, procedures for data collection in aquaculture, the farming of tuna, market standards, procedure for setting up of fisheries cooperatives and producer organisations (POs).
    The specific issues related to the aquaculture in terms of environment and nature protection, animal health and welfare are regulated by the different specific acts and regulations.
    Applied research, education and training
    The scientific research in aquaculture in Croatia is performed by institutions registered for performing the scientific activity, like the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries (in Split and Dubrovnik), the Ruđer Bošković Institute (Zagreb) and as well as a range of faculties (Faculty of Science and Faculty of Agronomy in Zagreb, Faculty of Agriculture in Osijek), and the companies which perform the activity of farming.

    Education in aquaculture issues in Croatia is performed by academic institutions. 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. Specific education and informing in aquaculture has also been implemented by the competent institutions of the state. These are in the first instance the Ministry of Agriculture and its Advisory Service, and, periodically, other institutions, such as the Paying Agency for Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development and the Croatian Chamber of Economy, etc.

    However, the system of education in aquaculture is nowadays still fragmented and mostly includes only the basic knowledge and skills. Furthermore, there is no lifelong learning framework defined. The practical application of knowledge and skills in aquaculture is performed by experts educated in Croatia. On the other hand, research and development as well as 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.
    Trends, issues and development
    The Republic of Croatia is taking final steps in a procedure of an adoption of the multi-annual National Strategic Plan for Aquaculture 2014-2020 (NSPA), which is being prepared and coordinated by the Ministry of Agriculture. The preparation of the NSPA is important both from the viewpoint of planning and positioning of farming 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.
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