Replaced by: French version (2012)
The French aquaculture industry is an old and established sector, one of the first to develop among the EU countries; 243 907 tonnes were produced in 2004 placing it as the second highest producer in terms of volume in Europe. Marine production is dominated by molluscs; mainly oyster with 106 750 tonnes and mussels with 74 100 tonnes generating a gross income of about €600 million produced by the work of 20 000 people in 3 700 farms. Freshwater production is concentrated on trout with 36 611 tonnes produced by 500 farms, most of which produce less than 200 tonnes/year each.
The marine fish aquaculture sector has been developed through a research effort lasting 30 years, however, following early development successes in the early 1990s, the marine fish aquaculture sector (mainly seabass and seabream producing 4 817 tonnes plus 60 million fry sold mainly for export) has been in competition with other countries notably Greece and more recently Turkey. Today, in addition to the production of tropical shrimp in New Caledonia and the black pearl in Polynesia, the main developmental potential of the French aquaculture sector is in the production of marine fish, notably promising new species like red drum as well as high quality products like sturgeon caviar, selected strains for all fish species and quality labelled products.
The main limiting factor against further development remains access to farming sites as most coastal authorities prefer to support the development of the tourism sector or to maintain free access to offshore waters rather than establish marine farms. For freshwater aquaculture the competition is even more severe, with increasing environmental constraints in terms of the quality of water outflows. The potential for development is higher in some of the French overseas territories, in particular for the islands, notably in Corsica, New Caledonia and the Mayotte lagoon in the Indian Ocean.
Potential for development still exists in niche markets for high quality and labelled products, in technological progress (rearing systems, notably in recirculated water systems), in improved genetic strains (protected selection, sterile fish, high performance hybrids, etc.) including juveniles, in the synergy of multi-disciplinary research operating within large European networks and finally in the management of the maximisation of opportunities relating to areas such as production, education, aqua-tourism, conservation of biodiversity, etc., in a restricted and controlled coastal zone progressively extending into offshore waters.
French aquaculture is an old and established activity notably in the production of molluscs and in trout farming. Freshwater species other than salmonids (carp – 4 230 tonnes, roach and tench – 2 790 tonnes) have been farmed since the Middle Ages in the South West and the Central and Eastern regions of France.
During the 1970s, the biological cycle of seabass and seabream was closed by French scientists experimenting in the South of France. The rapid progress of technology and the high demand from niche connoisseur markets, notably in Italy, provided strong support for the marine fish culture sector.
Over the last 20 years, aquaculture development has grown quite rapidly in the French overseas territories, for example in New Caledonia where shrimp culture (2 100 tonnes) targets the Japanese market and in the Mayotte/Reunion territories where marine fish production of red drum and cobia (390 tonnes) targets European markets. Martinique is developing production of fish for its local market.
There is a large diversity in production systems:
The most important production sector is shellfish farming: 55 000 concessions are listed in the maritime public domain, this represents 3 700 companies, most of which are privately owned (78 percent).
Trout farming employs 2 000 people distributed across 800 sites, 3 percent of the companies are large producing more than 500 tonnes each, small companies produce less than 100 tonnes each but represent 84 percent of the total production. Farming of other freshwater fish species is represented by 6 000 multi-activity farmers.
Marine fish farming is carried out on 50 farms established at 52 sites, this sector employs about 500 people; eight of the largest companies produce around 75 percent of the total sales. Some companies specialise in the production of juveniles or in on-growing to market size, these sectors have a high market value.
Shrimp farming in New Caledonia is carried by 13 farms: five are small-scale family farms (less than 20 ha), six are mid-size farms (20 to 60 ha) and two are large farms (over 60 ha).
Oyster farming for black pearl in French Polynesia is carried out by about 200 farms.
Shellfish production is distributed along the Western and Mediterranean coasts of France; it is a traditional activity located in six areas, namely: Basse Normandie, Bretagne, Pays de Loire, Poitou Charentes, Aquitaine and Languedoc-Roussillon.
Trout farming is mainly located in Aquitaine and Bretagne (47 percent of the total production); however, there are also many farms in Nord Pas de Calais, Normandie, Rhône-Alpes and Midi-Pyrénées. Other freshwater species like carp, tench, roach and pike are produced in the Centre, Rhône-Alpes and Lorraine regions. The rearing of sturgeon is developing rapidly with three farms producing 15 tonnes of caviar.
Marine fish are produced in many areas: seabass and seabream are reared close to the North Sea (utilising heated water from a nuclear power plant), along the Atlantic coast and in the Mediterranean (Côte d'Azur and Corsica). Turbot farms are established along the Atlantic coast and salmon farming is found mainly in Normandie and the Bretagne regions.
Shrimps are farmed only on the island of New Caledonia, the shrimp sector is dynamic and requires more education and technical support to develop. Research is also needed to secure the sustainability of the production, for example through eco-pathology; studies on nutrition and flesh quality, etc.
Oyster pearls (black) are a specialty of Tahiti which benefits from its 'paradise island' image. The 11 tonnes of pearls produced in 2004 represent the effort of about 4 000 people and this activity is the second most important source of income for this French territory, after tourism. Moreover, this activity has developed in 'poorer' areas (the coral islands of the Tuamotou archipelago) where low-skilled people from the declining coconut oil production sector have found employment.
Shellfish farming is mainly represented by Pacific cupped oysters (Crassostrea gigas ), in 2004 105 250 tonnes were produced. This species was imported into France in 1966 to replace the massive losses of Portuguese oyster at the time due to the presence of two viral diseases. The shellfish sector in France is the largest in terms of volume produced and second in terms of value in Europe.
In 2004, about 35 128 tonnes of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss ) was produced with a market value of around €135 million. France is the third largest producer of trout after Chile and Norway and trout is the most important species farmed in France.
European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax ), gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata ) and turbot (Psetta maxima ) dominate the marine aquaculture sector in France producing in total 5 766 tonnes. These species have been developed since 1970 and showed a rapid increase during the 1990s. France has a good scientific understanding of the process of juvenile production which in itself translates to a high market value on the export market (60 to 70 percent of the production is exported within Europe and as far a field as China).
Shrimp culture in New Caledonia (Penaeus stylirostris ) was introduced in 1981, this species of shrimp is well adapted to New Caledonia's environment and has a high market value due to its quality; it is mainly exported to Japan and the French mainland.
High value marine fish are cultured utilising three main technologies:
France has seen a progressive increase in the level of control exerted on culture practices in order to reduce levels of feed waste, use of treatments, environmental impact and globally to cope with recommendations for a higher level of sustainability. Producers know now that the image of aquaculture products is clearly linked to their method of production. Industry linked organisations and research institutions collaborate regularly to support this type of approach.
The French aquaculture sector is mainly targeted at traditional domestic consumption (France consumes the bulk of its bivalve production) with, in addition, a dynamic sector of high quality production of species such as seabass exported to USA or shrimp exported to Japan. These high quality products command high prices thanks to precise control of criteria such as taste, use of treatments, reliability of supply and quality standards when they exist.
The aquaculture sector does not have a significant contribution to food security as a whole and is a relatively minor contributor to total food production in France. However, it contributes significantly towards stable employment, notably in winter, in the coastal regions and cities.
Today the best potential for development of Mediterranean species exists in Eastern "PACA" (Provence Alpes Côtes d'Azur) and Corsica but these regions are also subject to strong pressures from the tourism sector, despite the fact that the space required to accommodate offshore cages is extremely small, usually less than 10 ha. In addition to this competition for space, production capacity for marine finfish continues to increase in the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, causing a levelling out of the price on European wholesale markets. Indeed, the comparative advantages possessed by these countries, for example, lower labour costs, warmer surface waters, etc., help to justify why French marine fish producers target high quality niche markets which are protected by specific requirements. In this area most French marine farms are willing to expand, as they have succeeded in doing in Corsica and the Indian Ocean.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in France according to FAO statistics:
The market for shellfish is essentially domestic; Pacific oysters are sold mainly on the French market but also in Italy (4 000 tonnes), Belgium (700 tonnes) and Germany (400 tonnes). France also imports (in 2004) oysters from Ireland (1 600 tonnes), Great Britain (400 tonnes) and Spain (300 tonnes). Consumption of oysters is mainly seasonal, with 70 percent of the yearly production marketed between November and January. The positive trade balance for shellfish produced in France about €12 million, France's trade balance for mussels meanwhile is negative with a net import worth about €60 million due to a large volume of imported product from Netherlands (17 100 tonnes), Ireland (13 000 tonnes), Spain (7 500 tonnes) as well as other European countries. The main export markets are Spain (2 500 tonnes), Germany (500 tonnes) and Italy (400 tonnes).
The markets for rainbow trout are of three types:
Seabass and seabream are both sold as whole fish, with 50 percent of the production being exported (about 2 400 tonnes). French hatcheries have many years experience and expertise in terms of juvenile production, as a consequence, France exports between 70 and 80 percent of its production of juvenile seabass and seabream. However, France also imports approximately 5 000 tonnes of seabream from Greece (66 percent) and Spain (11 percent) and 2 700 tonnes of seabass from Greece (77 percent) and the United Kingdom (11 percent).
The 'blue shrimp' (Penaeus stylirostris ) of New Caledonia is a high quality product sold essentially on the European (33 percent) and Japanese (27 percent) markets. About 80 percent of production is exported which generates an annual gross income of €12 million.
The institution responsible for the management of the aquaculture sector in France is the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Resources, Directorate of 'Département des Pêches Maritimes et de l'Aquaculture' (DPMA). The Ministry of Environment is also closely involved with aquaculture related issues and its involvement has increased over the last 20 years. Three other Ministries are also important decision makers, namely those for Research and Higher Education, Industry and Finance.
Several public institutes and agencies regularly play a role in the evolution of the aquaculture sector, for example the CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research), ADEME (the Executive Agency for Environment Management), Ofimer (the public office for the regulation of the seafood market in France), ANVAR (the national agency specifically providing support to innovative and transferable research), INRA (a French research institute dealing with all agriculture production notably trout), IRD and CIRAD (research institutes specialised in R&D in overseas territories and have interests in the likes of tilapia and GCZM) and Cemagref (a research institute specialising in freshwater species, notably sturgeon).
In each administrative region of the country, aquaculture is supported by specialised development agencies (for example Smidap in Pays de Loire, Cepralmar in Languedoc-Roussillon, Ardam in La Réunion, etc.), these agencies provide support in several areas including: research priority selection, financial support to companies and new projects, co-financing of doctorates, etc. This influence is very important in the French overseas territories where the general recommendations for mainland France have to be adapted to local conditions.
The general framework is based around European law with its principle of subsidiarity, in other words specific laws are managed by each individual European Union member country. The key European laws relevant to aquaculture are the following: Rules 1263/1999 and 2792/1999 related to financing and Rule 1685/2000 related to the selection of eligible projects as well as various decrees and circulars related to the processing of structural funds and specialised grants for aquaculture sector development including peripheral areas.
For the shellfish sector, the DPMA (Direction des pêches maritimes et de l'aquaculture) has a number of responsibilities relating to the promotion of adequate shellfish consumption in relation to improved public health. Also for the preparation of relevant laws and regulations, notably on human health protection, management of any claims, monitoring of water quality through networks operated by IFREMER and the monitoring of the work of professional organisations.
Related to the increasing awareness by consumers and the general public about environmental issues, an increased and tighter control over the regulation of aquaculture production had been developed over the last 20 years. Globally the aim has been targeted at both inland waters and coastal waters alike, to reach the highest possible level of environmental quality while ensuring the minimum of constraints for neighbours or other users of the aquatic environment, notably in coastal areas, in the vicinity of aquaculture operations.
As a result, finfish aquaculture is regulated and installations registered (ICPE: installations classées pour la protection de l'environnement). Any aquaculture activity is required to demonstrate that the potential negative effects of its activities in a broad sense (organic pollution, antibiotic residues, genetic risk from escapes, specific diseases, etc.) are within the limits of what is permissible by law, and that development is properly monitored. The list established following the initial decree (which is regularly modified) of 20th May 1953 details the installations concerned.
The two main official regulations are the law of July 19, 1976 and the decree of September 21, 1977 , since they detail the requirements for the management of registered farms. These regulations have been frequently modified during the last 20 years; recently, the decree dated 20 March 2000 , integrates into French law several elements of relevant European directives . These three laws and decrees are not the only ones which regulate operations at registered fish farms; they simply offer the framework for an extensive set of laws and specific regulations, composed of numerous texts .
For example, if a marine fish farm produces between 5 and 20 tonnes of farmed fish a year, its owner just has to submit a simple declaration to the prefecture. This step does not present a major difficulty, however, as soon as production exceeds 20 tonnes, notably in the open sea, all aspects of the ICPE procedure must be respected, including impact studies, regular monitoring of biological and chemical parameters, etc.
For more information on aquaculture legislation in France please click on the following link:
National Aquaculture Legislation Overview - France
Research priorities in aquaculture are selected through a variety of means: financing opportunities particularly from the European Union, technological development notably by private companies and political will, notably as a result of bilateral cooperation.
There is a strong trend towards a permanent interface between the research sector, mainly operated by national institutions such as IFREMER, INRA, CIRAD, IRD, etc., and the production sector, via trade unions and other industry associations. The major partners include CNC (Conseil national de la conchyliculture), FFA (Fédération française de l'aquaculture), CIPA (Comité interprofessionnel des produits de l'aquaculture), SFAM (Syndicat français de l'aquaculture marine et nouvelle), CNPMEM (Comité national des pêches et des cultures marines), SAVU (Service d'assistance vétérinaire aquacole d'urgence) and SYSAAF (Syndicat des sélectionneurs avicoles et aquacoles français). Regular contact between all stakeholders facilitate the selection of priorities for research, with the necessity of some compromise between pure and applied research. Conferences and exhibitions, notably those organised by the European Aquaculture Society or the EU, also provide opportunities for interactive discussion on results of research and the requirements of the private sector. In total, the main research institutions encompass all the research disciplines which are required to face the challenges of development: nutrition, physiology, genetics, modelling, socio-economics and pathology (although this sector is weakening in terms of research power).
Seven main universities participate to aquaculture research: Paris (VI), Brest (UBO), La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Montpellier (UM2) Marseille and Nice. Education and training is split in three areas:
France is one of the leading nations in Europe in terms of volume of aquaculture product produced, the quality of its system of education and research, and the support of the producers' organisations. After an initial period of development in the 1990s French marine fish production has levelled off while Greece, Spain and Turkey have built an important new sector notably for the production of seabass and seabream. The total Mediterranean production for these two species is currently estimated at a minimum of 200 000 tonnes (with a potential total sustainable production of 300 000 tonnes).
The major weakness of French aquaculture is the fact that it is dominated by one major species, the Japanese oyster (Crassostrea gigas ) which has limited potential for growth and is at high risks from the effects of changes in water quality and climate change. The future of the oyster sector is clearly linked to collaborative use of coastal areas. Indeed, several factors compete with shellfish for the use of coastal resources: fishing activities, tourism including sports such as sailing, nature conservation, trade and military navigation.
There are three main threats to French aquaculture development:
There is still significant potential for aquaculture development: in niche markets related to high quality and labelled products; in technological progress, notably in genetic development and bio secured juveniles; in more efficient recirculation systems; in developments in fish feeds including the substitution of the fish oil and fish meal components, in the synergy of multi-disciplinary research operated within large European networks. The final goal is the co-ordinated management of identified goals (production, education, aqua-tourism, conservation of biodiversity, etc.) with all stakeholders, in a regulated coastal zone which extends progressively offshore. Potential for this aim remains fragile as it is linked to the image consumers have of aquaculture production and the need to secure a public image of a natural product reared under regulated but natural conditions.
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