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. 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
    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.
    History and general overview
    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:
    • Marine and freshwater fishes: these are reared in raceways, ponds, tanks and cages, except carp and cyprinids which are raised in dams, lakes and reservoirs.
    • Crustaceans (tropical shrimp) are cultured in earthen ponds.
    • Molluscs are reared along the coast in bays, rias, lagoons either on suspended longlines, racks, posts or directly on the sea floor.
    The yields are high for shrimp (between 2 to 4 tonnes/ha/yr) and marine fish (0.1 tonne/m³/yr), using relatively intensive systems of rearing; yields are lower for freshwater fish except for trout and sturgeon.
    Human resources
    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.
    Farming systems distribution and characteristics
    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.
    Cultured species
    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.
    Practices/systems of culture
    French shellfish production utilises several methods, namely floating or racks, longlines, bottom bags and posts ("bouchots"). The overall rearing cycle takes three to four years for the shellfish to reach marketable size and transfers between ongrowing areas are frequent. Because shellfish immune systems are limited and they are able to build up concentrations of several types of components within the seawater, for example toxic algae and pollutants, European food safety rules aim at limit transfers to reduce the risk of epizootic events.

    High value marine fish are cultured utilising three main technologies:
    1. Flow-through in concrete raceways (seabass and trout).
    2. Highly recirculated systems in tanks (seabass and turbot).
    3. Cage culture for seabass, seabream and red drum, mainly in Mediterranean waters including Provence Côte d'Azur, Corsica and in tropical areas around Mayotte and La Réunion.
    Shrimp is produced using semi-intensive culture, in earthen ponds, on islands with available space.

    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.
    Sector performance
    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:

    Market and trade
    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:
    1. Direct consumption: utilising 80 percent of farmed trout (market value: €130 million).
    2. Angling: 12 percent (market value: €16 million).
    3. Restocking: 8 percent (market value: €7 million).
    France exports around 5 300 tonnes of rainbow trout mainly to Belgium (36 percent) and Germany and imports around 3 000 tonnes essentially from Norway and Spain. Trout is sold smoked (40 percent), whole (30 percent), filets (20 percent), as 'caviar' (2 percent) and other products (8 percent). This diversification of trout products is quite recent and the broad range of different products has contributed to a strengthening of the trout sector.

    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.
    Promotion and management of the sector
    The institutional framework
    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 governing regulations
    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
    Applied research, education and training
    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:
    • Technical education, in twelve colleges specialising in molluscs, freshwater fish, technology, etc., with a final diploma of technician after 2 or 3 years study following the baccalauréat.
    • Higher education through high schools of agronomy (Paris, Montpellier, Rennes, Toulouse, Nancy) and the two veterinarian schools (Nantes et Maison Alfort).
    • Permanent education through specialised bodies, mainly CNAM and Creufop (Univ. of Montpellier).
    As the aquaculture sector is relatively small (about 25 000 people) and relatively static in terms of development, the requirement for skilled personnel remains low. However, there is still an ongoing demand for experienced people for the support of international projects, which demonstrates the need for an infrastructure to provide training, particularly for foreign nationals for whom demand is increasing. The main topics for training are all matters related to sustainability and development planning.
    Trends, issues and development
    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:
    1. Competition in the coastal zone (including estuaries) for space and water use, with exacting requirements for impact studies, waste control and monitoring.
    2. A high level of investment is required to launch a new project and secure the competitiveness of French produced product against other countries notably in the Mediterranean and in Southeast Asia.
    3. Climate, with regard to France's southern location for the production of North Atlantic species (salmonids) and its northern position in relation to the production of Mediterranean species.
    However, France does have important assets which are of increasing importance when considering the evolution of the main trends affecting the utilisation of rivers and coastal areas, for example:
    • A high degree of control of the whole production process from the farm to the consumer, which allows producers to guarantee the traceability of product throughout the production chain and where quality product can attract high prices.
    • Technological breakthroughs in land-based systems relating to broodstock management, fully recirculated systems providing water quality control, identification of genetic markers for the benchmarking of new aquaculture species, intensive rearing systems, resistance to disease, product traceability, flesh quality, sensory assessment (including flavour), nutritional requirements, animal welfare assessment, sustainability criteria selection, etc.
    • A high level of education in aquatic sciences with access to research establishments offering a broad range of facilities and experienced personnel; this capacity facilitates multidisciplinary studies securing integrated development.
    The demand for high quality and safe seafood is here to stay and latest reports from the FAO indicate that fish prices would continue to increase. The demand for the multi-faceted usage of the coastal zone will also continue as a result there is a clear need for reliable biotechnologies securing high quality seafood on the one hand with the knowledge and ability to sustainably manage the marine environment on the other. This new production philosophy includes the welfare of farmed fish as well as respect for the code of good practices operated by fish farmers.

    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.
    FAO . 2005 . Aquaculture production, 2004. Year book of Fishery Statistics - Vol.96/2. Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.
    Aqualog . 2001 . Guide de la production aquacole française ; Aqualog, La Seyne sur mer, 125 p.
    CIRAD . 2002 . Le Cirad en 2002. 60 pp.
    CIRAD . 2003 . Le Cirad en 2003. 80 pp.
    FAO . 1994 : SIPAM: Information system to promote aquaculture in the Mediterranean. MEDRAP II Project. Tunis/Rome, November 1994, FAO, Rome, 61 pp.
    FAO . 1996 . Rapport final sur le projet « Assistance à la mise en place du SIPAM » , projet GCF/REM/OSS/FRA, 11 octobre 1993 - 31 août 1996 FAO, Rome, 34 pp.
    FAO . 1998 . SIPAM for Windows , User Manual, September 1998, FAO, Rome, 71 pp.
    FAO . 2004 . Report of the ad hoc meeting of experts on the external evaluation of the committee on aquaculture and its networks, Rome, 20-30 March 2004. FAO fisheries report No.770. Rome, FAO. 77 pp.
    Fish farming international . 2000 . Vol 27, n°1 à 12.
    Fish farming international . 2001 . Vol 28, n°1 à 12.
    Fish farming international . 2002 . Vol 29, n°1 à 12.
    Fish farming international . 2003 . Vol 30, n°1 à 12.
    Fish farming international . 2004 . Vol 31, n°1 à 12.
    Fish farming international . 2005 . Vol 32, n°1 à 4.
    IFREMER . 1997 . Données économiques maritimes françaises. IFREMER, Plouzané, 95 pp.
    IFREMER . 1999 . Données économiques maritimes françaises. IFREMER, Plouzané, 95 pp.
    IFREMER . 2000 . Annual report 2000. IFREMER, Issy-Les-Moulineaux, 67 pp.
    IFREMER . 2001 . Annual report 2001. IFREMER, Issy-Les-Moulineaux, 81 pp.
    IFREMER . 2002 . Annual report 2002. IFREMER, Issy-Les-Moulineaux, 79 pp.
    IFREMER . 2003 . Annual report 2003. IFREMER, Issy-Les-Moulineaux, 79 pp.
    IFREMER . 2003 . Données économiques maritimes françaises. IFREMER, Plouzané, 95 pp.
    Muir, J. 2004 . Potential of Mediterranean marine fish aquaculture, Pres. Annual meeting of EAS "biotechnologies for quality", Barcelona, Spain, 20-23 October 2004.
    Rastouin, J.L. 2005 . Vers une modèle agroalimentaire européen? Une lecture perrouxienne, Societal, n°48, 2ème trimestre 2005, pp. 14-19.
    SIPAM . 1998 . Report of the third meeting of the working group of SIPAM National Coordinators, Olhao, Portugal, 17-19 September 1998, SIPAM/PRT98O. SIPAM, Tunis, 30 pp.
    SIPAM . 1999 . Report of the fourth SIPAM annual meeting, Malta, 24-28 November 1999, SIPAM/MLT99M. SIPAM, Tunis, 30 pp.
    SIPAM . 2000 . Report of the fifth SIPAM annual meeting, 8-12 November 2000, Istanbul, Turkey, SIPAM/TUR00I. SIPAM, Tunis, 30 pp.
    SIPAM . 2002 . Report of the seventh meeting of the Coordinating Committee of SIPAM, Rome, Italy, 17-18 June 2002, SIPAM/IT02R. SIPAM, Tunis, 30 pp.
    SIPAM . 2003 . Report of the seventh annual meeting of the Coordinating Committee of SIPAM, 18-21 September 2003, Casablanca, Morocco, SIPAM/MAR03C. SIPAM, Tunis, 30 pp.
    Related links
    Powered by FIGIS