Aquaculture in Germany is a small industry, practiced only in a few specifically suited areas. Aquaculture production in 2005 reached a total volume of roughly 44 685 tonnes. As in previous years, trout farming in freshwater flow-through-systems was the most profitable branch of production, both in terms of quantity (24 000 tonnes) and the revenue generated (€113 million). The design and construction of production units as well the production densities vary widely, in some areas in the south of Germany in particular, earthen ponds with a low stocking density are still dominant. At the same time, some companies are operating modern farms equipped with tanks or raceways and high production densities. The main production regions are situated in the south of Germany and in the foothills of the mountains.
Traditional aquaculture species in Germany include common carp and rainbow trout which are farmed in earthen ponds, raceways and others modern indoor and outdoor facilities (Rosenthal et al., 2000).
The farming of carp in freshwater ponds is the second major type of aquaculture practiced in Germany and has a long tradition. In 2005, 16 711 tonnes were harvested producing a total revenue of more than €52 million.
Variation in the intensity of carp production depends to a large extent on both the location of production and the year class. On average, 400 kg/ha were produced in 2005. Carp pond farms are concentrated in the States of Bavaria, Saxony and Brandenburg, however the profitability of many carp farms are increasingly under pressure as a result of high production costs and competition from cheap imports.
Aquaculture of marine species yielded 9 700 tonnes in 2005. With 9 470 tonnes, blue mussel was the dominating species in this sector. Over the last 10 years, total aquaculture production has remained constant in terms of production volume.
Pond culture of fish and carp in particular has a long tradition in Germany, the first records of common carp (Cyprinus carpio ) culture in Bavarian ponds date back to the eleventh century (Geldhauser and Gerstner, 2003) and reached an initial peak during Medieval times. Between the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, the importance of carp pond culture decreased, at that time the fast growing human population led to an alternative usage of former pond areas for the production of cereals. Following a second peak between 1880 and 1980 carp pond culture has been under consistent pressure over the last two decades mainly as a result of unfavourable economic conditions e.g. the high costs for energy, manpower, nature conservation constraints, low priced imports and a decreasing demand by consumers. Current production has reached 16 711 tonnes in 2005, of this 1 000 tonnes come from species other than carp such as pike (Esox lucius), zander (Sander lucioperca) and tench (Tinca tinca).
Today, the most important cultured species in Germany is the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), which was introduced to Germany from North America in 1880. Over the last 30–40 years production figures for this species have increased annually reaching almost 24 000 tonnes in 2003. Milestones in trout aquaculture in Germany have been the development of artificial feed (1970–1980), the construction of flow-through-systems, artificial oxygen enrichment of production water and effective disease control. As a result of these developments, production systems have evolved from earthen ponds to flow through units of different shapes made of concrete or plastic. At present, some small-scale producers still operate earthen ponds but the vast majority of trout are reared in flow through units at a much higher density level. In addition to rainbow trout other salmonids such as sea trout (Salmo trutta trutta) and brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) are also cultured in these units. With approximately 2 200 tonnes produced in 2005 production of these species remains comparably low.
Aquaculture in brackish and marine waters mainly focus on blue mussel (Mytilus edulis). From this species, 9 300 tonnes were harvested in 2006 mainly from special aquaculture sites in the North Sea. The production volume of this species varies to a large degree between years due to the dependence from the year class strength of seed mussels in nature. Some other finfish species like turbot (Psetta maxima) (60 tonnes in 2006), European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) (12 tonnes) and Macroalgae like Laminaria saccharina (1 tonne) are nowadays cultured in recirculation systems near the shore, but mainly still on an experimental scale.
The corporate structure of the aquaculture sector in Germany is dominated by small enterprises which produce fish alongside other agricultural and/or third party activities. In total the number of these 'part-time' fish producing companies numbered approximately 12 300 (Brämick, 2004) in 2003 with in addition 732 companies exclusively farming fish.
Initial and ongoing training of staff are important elements in the aquaculture sector and are the responsibility of the various German States, in addition, to operate as a fish farmer requires an apprenticeship and every year between 70 and 80 apprentices pass their examinations.
Precise information on the distribution of employees by gender is not available but in practice males dominate.
Carp pond culture is concentrated in the States of Bavaria, Saxony and Brandenburg, the most important areas being the regions around the city of Nürnberg (Aischgrund), between Hof and Regensburg (Oberpfalz) and the region formed by the cities of Cottbus, Bautzen, Dresden and Leipzig (Lausitz). Most pond farms in Bavaria are family owned, small in size and operate at low levels of production. In contrast, pond farms in the States of Saxony and Brandenburg are mainly operated by company's, on average ponds are larger and run at higher production levels.
In general, the liming and fertilization of carp ponds is very common, mainly using inorganic fertilizers. On most farms artificial feed is provided to young carp during their first growing season, while during the second and third growing out years some complementary feed in the form of wheat or corn is administered. In an increasing number of pond farms, second and third year production is now carried out without additional feeding but instead just relying on the natural feed available in the ponds.
The total pond surface area utilised for carp production amounts to roughly 40 000 hectares, half of which is located in the State of Bavaria. In Saxony, total pond surface area reaches 8 300 ha and in Brandenburg 4 200 ha.
Two thirds of all flow-through-systems used for trout production are situated in the southern part of Germany in the States of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, other important regions using these systems can be found in the States of Lower Saxony, Hessen, Nordrhein-Westfalen and Thüringen. Construction of these production units, the technical equipment used and the intensity of production varies widely across the regions.
Indoor recirculation production systems, of which there are 31 in total, are not concentrated in any particular region but spread throughout Germany. In general, trout farmers use pre formulated artificial feed as part of their production operations.
Finfish aquaculture. The production value of trout farming (€113 million in 2005) refers mainly to the production of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss); this corresponds to 60 percent of the total earnings from German aquaculture. In the case of the common carp (Cyprinus carpio) production value amounts to €52.4 million or approximately 30 percent of total earnings from aquaculture. In addition there are small amounts produced from other species such as pike, tench and zander which are reared in polyculture systems alongside carp (estimated at around 5 percent of the total value produced from carp ponds). Earnings from the culture of marine species reached more than €13.3 million in 2005.
In former times some effort was made to improve the performance of carp in ponds through selection, in this way a number of regional strains were developed, which differed in body shape, color and growth (e.g. 'Lausitzer Karpfen' and 'Aischgründer Karpfen). In today's carp pond culture these strains have lost their relevance and in most regions these former strains have been 'lost'. Nevertheless, an increased effort is made to analyse and document the current status of regional strains and their perspective not only for carp but for a number of key species in German aquaculture.
Rainbow trout used in German aquaculture have also undergone a selection process in some regions. However, today a growing number of trout farmers are importing eggs or fry from abroad with an unknown level of selection status. In more intensive farms, most of the imported eggs are triploid and all female.
A few other fish are cultured at a low level, including pike perch (Stizostedion lucius), perch (Perca fluviatilis), tench (Tinca tinca), European eel (Anguilla anguilla), sturgeon (mainly the Siberian sturgeon, Acipenser baerii) or the bester (a hybrid between Huso huso and Acipenser ruthenus). Several endangered or heavily fished species are produced for stocking purposes. These include anadromous migratory fish such as sea trout (Salmo trutta trutta ) which are stocked in both North Sea and Baltic drainage systems in Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
With regard to coastal aquaculture, finfish culture is almost nonexistent in Germany. The harsh conditions along the very shallow North Sea coast of the German Bight do not allow for the safe operation of cage farms (Rosenthal et al ., 2000).
A small cage farm is located in the Kiel Bight, near the heated effluent of a coastal power plant and an onshore hatchery for turbot (Scophthalmus maximus ), operates north of Kiel and is now also producing some other species such as European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax ). Several fish species are cultured for stocking purposes, mainly in lakes, reservoirs and rivers. However, a few anadromous species are also cultured for release in coastal drainage systems such as sea trout (Salmo trutta trutta ) and houting (Coregonus oxyrhynchus ).
Mussel farming. The most important marine species cultured in Germany is represented by blue mussel (Mytilus edulis ). Although fishing on natural mussel beds in the German Wadden Sea along the Schleswig-Holstein coast has taken place for centuries, an extensive, combined fishery-culture system has developed since the end of World War II. Production of blue mussel is characterized by high fluctuations, from 28 549 tonnes in 2003 to 9 470 tonnes in 2005. They are mainly caused by changes in seed availability.
Culture of carp without any supplementary feeding is less important and applies mainly to small-scale farmers and ponds in specially protected nature conservation areas.
Trout culture. Trout are cultured in a large variety of production units at different levels of intensity with small-scale farmers often operating earthen ponds stocked with fry from specialised fry producers. Stocking densities are low and artificial feed is given, a marketable size of approximately 300 g is reached after 15–20 months and harvest is sold directly to individual consumers or restaurants in the region. This system is still of high importance for trout production in some areas of southern Germany.
At the same time, some company's farm trout in modern flow-through-systems equipped with tanks, computerised feed systems and water oxygenation systems. Fry can either be produced at the farm or bought in from specialist suppliers, often from abroad. Marketable size is reached after 12–15 months, with some farmers producing larger trout ('salmon-trout') within 24 months. Harvested production is usually sold via wholesale traders. In terms of production volume and value, these farms are playing an increasing role in the sector.
Mussel culture. Hatchery production is based upon conditioning adult mussels by using algal food and temperature control. The natural maturation cycle is actually mimicked at the hatchery. Mature mussels are cleaned up and hung as a group in larval tanks. M. edulis spawning is induced by thermal shock or by stripping. Adult mussels are cultured using on-bottom or, more frequently, longline techniques.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Germany according to FAO statistics:
Germany has some major fish markets, namely in cities nearby the coast like Hamburg and Kiel. In addition, larger quantities of fish are being sold on general food markets like the 'Viktoalienmarkt' in Munich as well as in some other cities. Aquaculture products are marketed in very different ways depending on species, region and the size of the producing company or unit. Larger farms usually sell most of their production via wholesale traders, medium sized and small-scale farms supply retail traders, restaurants, fish-shops and end consumers.
The German market for aquaculture products is dominated by imports. In 2005 a total of 172 264 tonnes were imported, with salmon accounting for more than 116 000 tonnes. Compared to this, exports reached only 43 324 tonnes and about 180 000 tonnes were consumed in Germany. From this, 85 000 tonnes came from species reared in freshwater.
Some imports were re-exported following processing; as a result exact estimates on the amount of exports produced from German aquaculture facilities are difficult.
The main importing countries for carp produced in Germany are Belgium, Austria and France. In terms of trout, 70 percent of exports went to countries outside of the EU.
Average per capita consumption of fish raised in aquaculture facilities has reached in total 2.1 kg in 2005, of which 0.6 kg per capita were produced by German aquaculture facilities. Compared with freshwater fish, per capita consumption of meat totalled 87 kg in 2003.
From these figures the conclusion can be drawn that aquaculture production does not contribute to a large extent to German national food security or economic development. As a result of the fact that the retail price for fish is on about the same level as pork and beef and more expensive than chicken, fish in Germany is not included within the typical diet for households with a low income.
Nevertheless, fish culture and fisheries have a long tradition in Germany; as a result, the cultural and social impact on the society exceeds its economic value.
Administrative control of aquaculture is the responsibility of and under authority of the various German States, which are the legislative bodies for aquaculture. As a result, each State has specific laws and regulations for fisheries and aquaculture which may differ across the different States.
Nevertheless, some frame work regulations relating to aquaculture are set in the responsibility of the Federal Ministry for Agriculture and the Federal Ministry for Environment, for example, areas relating to marketing, animal health and the prevention of epidemics, environmental issues and animal protection. Private stakeholders are included in legislative initiatives and procedures.
Freshwater fisheries associations are organised both within the individual States and the Federal Republic. Each State has its own Federal fisheries association representing the interests of stakeholders within that State. On behalf of these State associations, a federal association for inland fisheries acts nation wide.
The Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture (Bundesministerium für Verbraucherschutz, Ernährung und Landwirtschaft – BMVEL) is the competent authority on fisheries and aquaculture at the federal level. It drafts policies, guidelines and promotes actions especially at the EU level in this area, for example on the subject matter of the introduction of a environmental label for fishery products. The BMVEL ensures that the production of freshwater and seawater fish strictly respects environmental sustainability and the priority of consumer protection . The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit – BMU) deals with the following tasks relevant to aquaculture: protection of inland waters and the maritime zones, groundwater protection, wastewater treatment, pollutant in food and landscape planning. Germany is a federal state with a three-tiered system of government: the federation (national level), the Länder (federal states, provinces, or regional level), and municipalities (local level). The fisheries laws are executed by the Länder as in principle, according to the constitution, the federal laws and regulations are executed by the administration of the Länder . In terms of the legislative power at the federal level, the federal state can enact laws on sea and coastal fisheries within the so-called "concurrent legislation" , whereas the Länder are exclusively responsible for national inland water fisheries. Therefore fishery acts exist both at the federal level, including provisions on sea and coastal fisheries (Seefischereigesetz- SeeFischG ) and at the Länder level with provisons on inland water fisheries and territorial waters (within 12 sm zone). None of the fisheries laws (Fischereigesetz- FischereiG ) of the sixteen Länder include explicitly the term aquaculture. For instance, the Fisheries Law of Brandenburg refers to the rearing or culture of fish and other aquatic organisms in all artificial ponds and other facilities ("Aufzucht und Haltung von Fischen und anderen Wasserorganismen in allen kűnstlich angelegten Fischteichen und sonstigen Anlagen ").
Other relevant subject matters subject to concurrent legislation include protective measures in connection with the marketing of food, feedstuffs (Art. 74 No 20 GG); inland waterways (Art. 74 Nr. 21 GG); the promotion of agricultural production (including fisheries), deep sea and coastal fishing (Art. 74 No 17 GG). In contrast the regional planning and management of water resources (Art. 75 GG) falls under the federal framework legislation.
The Act on the Regulation of Matters Relating to Water of 1957 (Federal Water Act, Wasserhaushaltsgesetz – WHG), last amended in 2001), as a framework law of the Federal Government, lays down basic provisions relating to water resource management measures (management of water quantity and quality). Therefore it has a key role for aquaculture. This frame law is complemented by the water legislation of the Länder , like for example by the Water Act of Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania . The Federal Water Act includes provisions on the use of ground and surface water, the handling of substances hazardous to waters, the wastewater disposal as well as the development of waters.
Since the most important federal acts in the field of water resources management (Federal Water Act and Federal Wastewater Charges Act ) are only framework statutes, the water resources regulations in the Federal States (state water acts, state wastewater acts and various statutory orders) also contain important provisions which supplement the federal regulations or define them in greater detail. For example, the Federal States regulate ownership of waters, monitoring of waters, maintenance of waters, licensing procedures for uses of waters, and indirect discharges (i.e. discharges via wastewater treatment plants) into waters.
The Federation participates in the discharge of responsibilities of the Länder , in the improvement of the agrarian structure and of coastal preservation including fisheries (Law on the Improvement of the Agrarian Structure and the Coastal Protection- Gesetz über die Verbesserung der Agrarstruktur und des Küstenschutzes ). It is a joint task, because such responsibilities are important to society as a whole and federal participation is necessary for the improvement of living conditions.
There is no single authority responsible for aquaculture. Several authorities are concerned with aquaculture matters, such as the authorities in charge of water management, nature protection or construction. The most important authorities with respect to aquaculture are the water authorities. The supreme Water authority (oberste Wasserbehőrde) in Brandenburg decides about the policy guidelines and supervises the lower water authorities (untere Wasserbehőrde) and the superior water authorities (obere Wasserbehőrde/ Landesumweltamt) in Brandenburg. The lower administrative water authorities are the county administrations. These authorities issue, restrict, withdraw or revoke licences for water use. In general, aquaculture authorisations are granted at discretion of the competent water boards (management discretion). The superior water authority is competent in cases of specialized formal legal water procedures.
For more information on aquaculture legislation in Germany please click on the following link:
National Aquaculture Legislation Overview - Germany
Aquaculture research in Germany is organised by a range of different institutions. The Federal Ministry for Agriculture runs a Federal Research Centre for Fisheries, the research activities of this institute are concentrated on marine fisheries and new species of interest for the market. Activities related to the aquaculture sector are very limited and at present even non existent. A second research institute, which is financed equally by the Federal Ministry and the State of Berlin, carries out basic research on water ecology and inland fisheries.
Most applied research in inland fisheries and aquaculture is carried out in research bodies operated within the individual States, therefore, research priorities in aquaculture are in most cases set by the States depending on their specific needs. In order to coordinate research activities of these State institutions, special meetings are organised regularly.
On farm participatory research is also practised.
List of major aquaculture research institutions
In addition, there are five technical schools providing courses on fisheries and aquaculture sectors. Both research institutions as well as technical schools offer a number of training courses for operators. In 2003, a total of 146 such training courses were registered.
Aquaculture is a small fringe activity along the German coast and compared with other EU member countries its overall production is negligible other than for mussel farming. There are tight control measures, some of which have cost implications which make it difficult for inland and near-coast fish farmers to maintain economic viability. In contrast to neighbouring countries, the overall production trend is downward. Even mussel farming which is considered to be an extensive, environmentally friendly farming activity, faces increasing regulatory difficulties that will not allow its expansion despite the fact that the demand for aquatic products is continuously increasing (Rosenthal et al ., 2000).
Over the last ten years, fish production from aquaculture facilities has remained constant in terms of production volume with the amount of marketable size fish and shellfish running at approximately 40 000–50 000 tonnes produced per annum. The main reasons for this stagnation has been the high costs for energy and labour, restrictions in terms of environmental and animal protection, a shift of consumer preferences away from species like carp (produced in German aquaculture facilities) towards other species (like salmon imported from Norway) and cheap imports from abroad (carp, trout, salmon). Although a number of technical and biotechnological solutions and developments particularly in the area of flow-through-systems for trout culture have had a positive impact on aquaculture, the above mentioned restrictions have however prevented a significant growth in production volumes.
Great hope has been set in the development of in house recirculation systems for fish production. Technical problems (with the biological purification of recirculation production water in particular) and high costs for energy and equipment have so far prevented such facilities becoming economically feasible in a larger number. Against the trend in neighbouring European countries (Netherlands, Denmark), recirculation production systems in Germany have hardly been able to increase their output and are still contributing just around one percent to total fish production from aquaculture facilities.
An increasing effort has been made in the marketing of products produced by aquaculture; a central marketing association is now trying to improve the image of such products.
Owners of aquaculture facilities have to comply with a number of environmental limitations. Great effort has been made to reduce effluents from fish farms, e.g. nutrients, organic and inorganic particles and fractions, by the installation of mechanical and biological water purification units, improvement of fish feed composition and its degree of digestibility as well as limitations on stocking densities.
BLE (Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung). 2003. Karpfenbericht. Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung.
BLE (Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung). 2004. Der Markt für Fischerzeugnisse in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland mit Fischereiprodukten aus Eigenproduktion und Importen sowie die Exportsituation. Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung (in German).
Brämick, U. 2004. Binnenfischerei 2003. Jahresbericht über die Deutsche Fischwirtschaft 2004. pp. 47-76. Bundesministerium für Verbraucherschutz, Ernährung und Landwirtschaft., Bonn (in German).
Geldhauser, F. & Gerstner, P. 2003. Der Teichwirt. Blackwell, Berlin, Wien (in German).
Rosenthal, H. & Hilge, V. 2000. Aquaculture production and environmental regulations in Germany. Journal of applied Ichthyology 16 (4–5), 163–166.