Replaces: Arabic version (2005), Spanish version (2005), French version (2005), Chinese version (2005)
Freshwater aquaculture has been practiced since the 1930s (El-Zein, 1997). More than 90 percent of aquaculture production in Lebanon is rainbow trout, Onchorhyncus mykiss. They are grown in semi-intensive growing systems which were introduced in 1958. There are currently about 220 fish farms or holdings. Tilapia farming was recently tried out through several private initiatives.
Aquaculture is mainly practiced in the following regions of the country: Bekaa, Akkar district of Northern Lebanon, Mount Lebanon and South Lebanon.
In 1960 the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) established the Anjar Center for Aquaculture in the Bekaa area to develop the sector and a new center was established in Hermel for trpout production. The Center started as a hatchery service producing rainbow trout fingerlings and distributing them free of charge to growers to encourage more intensive and semi intensive growing of the species.
There is no marine aquaculture except for one shrimp farm initiative by a private investor in the north of Lebanon. The Oceanographic Institute of the MOA is undertaking pilot production of marine species.
According to the MOA's data aquaculture production in 2003 was 600 tonnes, the 2014 estimation is 1 200 tonnes. In 2014 the total amount of imported fish, whether live, fresh or frozen (including crustaceans and molluscs) amounted to about 20 921 tonnes at an approximate value of USD 95 million. This indicates that there is potential for development in the aquaculture sector.
The directorate of rural development and national resources under the MOA is responsible for aquaculture development.
Various private and public bodies carry out research. However, research in this sector is still limited and not coordinated. Moreover, additional funds and human resources would be required to acquired more detailed data and to develop comprehensive and accurate statistics on the sector.
Freshwater aquaculture has been carried out in Lebanon since the 1930s (El-Zein, 1997). Semi intensive growing was introduced in 1958. More than 90 percent of aquaculture production in Lebanon is rainbow trout, Onchorhyncus mykiss . Production of Salmo trutta fario , tilapia and some carps is also being attempted. Trout production was further boosted and developed in the early 1960s when the MOA established the Anjar Center for Aquaculture in the Bekaa area. This was the first hatchery among countries in the region. The center started as a hatchery service producing rainbow trout fingerlings and distributing them free of charge to growers to encourage intensive and semi intensive growing of the species.
The oldest farm was established in 1965 in the Hermel area. However, most of the farms (about 41 percent) were established during the years 1985-1990, mainly in the Anjar and Hermel areas and a few in Zahle. About 11 percent were established in the period 1991-1994 and 2 percent followed in the period 1995-1997. After 1997 another 90 farms were established. The industry now accounts for 220 farms distributed mainly in the Bekaa area along the river Assi with some smaller ones along the northern coast. However, this was not accompanied by the development of support infrastructure such as feed mills.
The production system used is mostly semi-intensive. The average annual production of trout is around 1 200 tonnes (MOA figures). This is produced by 220 farms, 90 percent of which are in Hermel-North Bekaa, at a total value of USD 4.0 million and an estimated average yield of 10-12 tonnes (at approximately 1.5 Kg/litre/minute).
Marine aquaculture is almost absent. However, a new farm for shrimp production has emerged very recently in the Akkar area of northern Lebanon.
Total fish production (capture and aquaculture) accounts for less than 33 percent of local consumption. Aquaculture contributes about 10 percent of local production and 4 percent of local fish consumption.
There are about 200 farms or holdings. In most cases, they are family owned businesses. Most of the farmers own their raceways or ponds. Average age of the producers is 40 years and they have an intermediate level of education. Most hire full time labourers to take care of daily farming activities on the farm.
The main growers of Bekaa are organized into four main groups: the Aquaculture and Fish Marketing Cooperative of Oyoun Urgush in Baalbeck, Aquaculture and Fish Marketing Cooperative of Anjar, and two Aquaculture and Fish Marketing cooperatives of the Assi Basin in Hermel.
There are also restaurant owners (30) who invest in their aquaculture enterprise and depend on it for their living.
Lebanon has 15 permanent short flowing rivers. Only Nahr Il-Kabir Al Janoubi is a relatively long river (571 km). Three flowing rivers (Assi 46 km, Litani 160 km, and Hasbani 21 km) are in the interior planes limited by Mount Lebanon from west side and by Anti-Lebanon on the east side. As a result, there are five hydrographical regions where aquaculture is practiced, as follows:
There are around 220 trout culture stations or farms in Lebanon. These farms can be grouped into four different regions by virtue of the same water source. These farms are concentrated in four areas of Bekaa: Zahle – Qaa El-Rim (in Zahle Caza (district)), Anjar (in western Bekaa Caza), Yammouneh (in Baalbeck Caza) and Hermel (in Hermel Caza). The rest are scattered in Bekaa mainly in Baalbeck, West Bekaa and North-Lebanon in different hydrolytic isolated points. Average annual production is about 600 tonnes (rainbow trout). (According to FAO statistics, annual production for the years 2002 and 2003 has been approximately 700 tonnes).
Most of the farms are artisanal family owned businesses, small to medium in size. Forty-seven percent of the farms are small (surface area less than 500 m2), 38 percent of the farms are medium sized (501 – 1 500 m2) and 15 percent are large (over 1 500 m2).
With respect to the physio-chemical characteristics of the water in the Bekaa area the water environment presents very favourable conditions for trout growing. The pH (7-8.2), water flow and temperature (8-17 ºC) are favourable.
The fauna and flora of freshwater of Lebanon account for 987 species (Al-Zein, 1997). There are 25 fish species pertaining to different families: Cyprinidae, Cyprinodontidae, Cobitidae, Salmonidae, Anguillidae, Cichlidae, Mugilidae, Puciliidae, Blenniidae, Lutjanidea.
In addition to these, other species have been introduced: rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss ) and brown trout (Salmo trutta fario; Al Zein, 1997), brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), common carp (Cyprinus carpio ), mosquito fish (Gambusia affinis), silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), mangrove red snapper (Lutjanus argentimaculatus), nomadic jellyfish (Rhopilema nomadica), narrow-barred Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson) and obtuse barracuda (Sphyraena obtusata). Some were introduced from other countries/regions such as the Red Sea (Rhopilema nomadica, Scomberomorus commerson). Others were introduced for sports purposes in addition to aquaculture (Salvelinus fontinalis). Other species were introduced to control different pests, for example snails (Cyprinus carpio), mosquitoes (Gambusia affinis) and weed (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix). An overview of some introduced fish species is as follows:
The trout species farmed are brown trout and rainbow trout. Brown trout Salmo trutta fario was identified in Lebanon in 1930 as indigenous to the Asi River (North Bekaa). From 1962 it was introduced to other areas. It is now practically extinct due to illegal fishing. It can tolerate water temperatures up to 20 °C and can reach a length of 30-60 cm and a weight of 2-8 kg. A record of 35 kg (over 30 years old) fish has been observed. The rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss was introduced into Lebanon in 1958. Lebanon introduced this species to Syria in the late 1960s. It is characterized by a fast growth rate. It was observed to grow up to 2 kg/year in natural water bodies. This species is employed in aquaculture in Lebanon.
With respect to water requirements, trout is raised in areas where a constant supply of high quality water is available all year round. Most trout farms and hatcheries use springs, wells, or streams as their source of water. Production of food-sized fish requires the largest volumes of water. Water flows of at least 2-8 m3 /minute are needed, depending on the operation size. The amount of eggs hatched is 0.5l/1 000 eggs. The number of fries produced up to 1 month is 1l/1 000 eggs.
Increase water flow by 1 l monthly till 12 l/1 000 at age of 12 months . Abundant supplies of high quality water are essential for a commercial trout hatchery. Dissolved oxygen, temperature, suspended solids, dissolved gases, pH, mineral content, hardness, and alkalinity of the water are key elements for trout production. Lebanese waters are predominantly calcareous and suitable for trout production. Water temperature is usually the most critical water quality factor. Temperature affects survival, growth and egg production. Trout hatcheries should have an adequate supply of high quality water ranging from about 7-18 °C, otherwise growth will be slowed. The optimum temperature for commercial production has been observed to be 11-16 °C with a maximum of 20 °C, with high oxygen level. Since trout requires high levels of oxygen, the oxygen content of the water supply must be high. Oxygen levels should never fall below 5 parts per million (ppm.) in the hatchery effluent. In general, dissolved oxygen concentrations of incoming water should be above 90 percent saturation. An oxygen concentration of 6-9 mg/l is required. Proper aeration of the incoming water and control of numbers of fish raised in the rearing system can be used to overcome low oxygen problems. Small waterfalls (10 cm high) have proved feasible in Lebanon.
The second most cultured fish in Lebanon today is tilapia. There are three farms which grow tilapia commercially. One practices intensive production. Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus ) was introduced into Lebanon in 1965. It was bred locally and distributed to small-scale farmers, backyard growers (50 m2 ponds) and introduced to coastal rivers. In the areas where it has been introduced it has been a success and became abundant in the Qasmeih River (South Lebanon). It became extinct in 1975. In 2000 the MOA put out a tender for the construction of a hatchery and grow-out facility for tilapia and other warm freshwater fishes. The private sector was faster than the government to establish the first commercial hatchery and grow-out farm. A small farm (Hadath Fish Farm) was established near to the MOA’s site. Recirculation, bio-filters, UV disinfectants, and greenhouses are among the new technologies introduced into Lebanon. These are already employed at Hadath Farm.
One of the biggest challenges facing tilapia farming in Lebanon is the cold climate and sub-optimal water temperatures. Tilapias are tropical species which grow poorly when water temperatures drop below 25 °C. It is claimed that the Hadath Tilapia Farm recycles over 98 percent of its water so as to maintain ‘high-residence-times,’ allowing ‘free’ solar energy to heat the tank water inside a plastic greenhouse tunnel (the kind used for crop production in Lebanon). The technology is called the IFF "ONE TANK" Fish Farming Systemand is entirely air driven using one (plus coupled standby) low pressure centrifugal fan running at 7 000 Pa' sto drive one or more RBCs (Rotating Biological Contactor) for ammonia conversion, specially designed air lift aerators (in-tank water circulation and aeration) and airlift-pods (low head water pumps) used to pull water though a centrally located water reconditioning system.
Other species produced in freshwater aquaculture are some common carp, bighead carp, silver carp, grass carp and leather carp which are being grown in some of the trout farms. Sales are low and mainly to Syria. Some also raise catfish, Clarias spp., in some ponds.
There are around 1 685 species in the marine ecosystem. There is only one saltwater aquaculture facility in Lebanon: a penaeid shrimp (Penaeus vannamei) farm in the northern town of Abdeh.
Nearly all of the trout farms use a semi intensive system. The farms are mostly artisanal family owned businesses. Farmers grow the fish to market size in concrete flow-through raceways or ponds. Water is aerated by flowing down small terraces. The type of raceways used is of earth and concrete, and the size depends on water quality. They are rectangular (2-3x10-20x0.5-1.5 m) or circular (5-6x 0.65-1.3 m). The most common form of raceways or ponds used is the rectangular one. The circular type is very rare (only two such farms are present in Hermel). An average yield of 30 kg/m2 is common. Yields of 40-50 kg/m2 have been observed at some locations. Raceways 3x12 m yield 1 tonne/year in Baaklin (Elevation: 450 m). Raceways 2.5x11 x (0.6-1.5) m yield 40 kg/m2 (high intensive) in Barouk (Elevation: 1 000 m). With respect to feeding practices, feed conversion should be regularly monitored. Generally, feed conversions (FC) of between 1.0 and 2.0 are acceptable. If the FC fluctuates significantly, then feeding practices should be adjusted accordingly. Moreover, a change in FC can also indicate disease or stress problems before physical signs appear. Sixty percent of the ponds are placed in a chapel like shape, the others are in parallel form (33 percent) and serpent type. The ponds are either engraved or elevated where the ponds are mounted in a cascade formation and where the water flows through the ponds continuously. The foundation of the ponds depends on the growers’ choice and on the soil nature. Most of the ponds are of concrete and few are of soil and concrete.
With respect to fish health management, raceway disinfection is done by the sun, CaCO3 25 percent, potassium permanganate and CuSO4 .Good management practices involve providing a healthy environment for fish while minimizing stress and meeting proper nutritional requirements. Many disease problems can be prevented as long as stress levels are kept at a minimum. Viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoans, and many invertebrate animals can cause diseases in fish. These disease-agents may be present in a water supply and not cause serious problems as long as the trout are not stressed by poor water quality or overcrowding. Another factor which may cause disease problems is poor quality or old feed. The following were observed in Lebanon: physiological disorders (stress), psychological diseases (fin nipping), external parasites (Gyrodactylus, Trematodes, Copepodes, Glochidie, Protozoa, Costiase, Chilodon, Trichodina, Tuberculosis, Necrosis, tail disease, gill & tail rot), internal parasites (Nematodes, Cestodes, Trematodes ), protozoa (Amoebae ), bacterial diseases (Furunculosis, Streptococcusis ), fungal diseases (Oidium, Blindness ).
On the shrimp farm the fish are stocked into half-acre earthen ponds filled with paddle wheel-aerator seawater and equipped with paddlewheel aerators. Water is exchanged as required. In 2003 the farm imported a new species from Florida, but survival was less than 20 percent. In 2004 it imported from Malaysia. The farm manager reported that 20 tonnes shrimp are sold live for USD 12/kg .
During the years 2013 and 2014 according to the MOA, average annual production of trout was around 1 200 tonnes and the value of production was around USD 4 million. This is far below the potential production which could be attained given the favourable conditions in Lebanon for trout growing where many studies suggest that trout production can be boosted to 3 000-4 000 tonnes if properly developed in both technical and marketing aspects.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Lebanon according to FAO statistics:
Medium size trout fish are sold live to restaurants which have their own concrete holding tanks. Value added product is still lacking on the Lebanese market. Some farmers sell their products to supermarkets, but most sell it at their farms or restaurants. The marketable size is 250-350 g. Larger sizes (1-3 kg) are also demanded. However, no certification is yet available.
Compared to other Mediterranean countries, Lebanese fish consumption is still limited at 5 kg per capita per annum. Consumption trends vary according to regions. Inhabitants of cities and coastal areas prefer marine fish, whereas inhabitants of Bekaa prefer beef and chicken to fish and they mostly consume trout. Domestic consumption is estimated at 30 000 tonnes per year.
According to the Lebanese Customs Office, the total amount of imported fish in 2014, whether live, fresh or frozen (including crustaceans and molluscs) amounted to about 20 921 tonnes (approximately USD 95 million). Turkey is number one exporting country (23 percent of total imports), followed by Viet Nam (15 percent), Egypt (10 percent), the United Kingdom (9 percent), Norway (8 percent), and India (7 percent).
However Lebanese fish exports amounted in 2014 to only USD 1 164 000, of which prepared products comprised the bulk of exported fish products. The main markets for the Lebanese fish exports is the Syrian Arab Republic. Other exports go mainly to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and Liberia.
After crop production, aquaculture is the second main economic activity of the Hermel, Yammouneh and Anjar areas and constitutes an income generating activity linked especially with restaurants and tourism in the areas. Restaurants usually serve trout at the table at a price of USD 10/kg. Trout cooking and meals are considered a specialty for the Hermel and Anjar communities. Most of the Lebanese prefer marine fish and still do not know about different recipes which could include trout. However, this source of fish is growing and is increasingly becoming known to the Lebanese consumer. It represents a good potential and an additional food source if higher production can be attained. This must be coupled with marketing strategies and advertising. This is particularly the case compared with the volume of imported meat quantities in general and fish in particular.
Several restaurants, particularly in the Bekaa Valley, have live tout holding raceways, so customers can select the fish which is then prepared. Around 60 restaurants in Anjar and Hermel areas serve fresh trout on their menus. Anjar is considered a tourist area where visitors from nearby villages, Beirut and other cities come for trout meals and enjoy the area with its landscape and water sites.
Recent investments have been made in the Anjar and Hermel areas to support for tourist activities such as the emergence of new hotels (2 hotels, one in Anjar and one in Hermel area) and enlarging and maintaining existing restaurants.
In Lebanon, the market is not selective, so grading and packaging are not important or carried out. Trout is usually sold chilled whole or gutted. The farm price is USD 2-3/kg, whilst the retail price is USD 3-5/kg.
The Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for aquaculture development. The Directorate of Rural Development and Natural Resources of the MOA issues fishing licenses. The MOA aquaculture facilities are summarized as follows:
MOA has no licensing requirement for the establishment of farms. However, the establishment of marine aquaculture farms is regulated by the Ministry of Environment which requires an Environment Impact Assessment study. The start-up of such enterprises is also subject to local authority control whereby such farms are treated as classified enterprises subject to local authority licensing. However, current related regulations are under revision by the MOA.
Research institutions for aquaculture are private and public. They are as follows:
Aquaculture production and productivity in Lebanon can be boosted in relation to water availability and quality and the favourable growing conditions. Apart from Morocco, Lebanon is the only Arab country growing trout.
Farming practices and technologies used need to be enhanced. Investments are needed to develop the sector along with the support infrastructure.
Research is needed to improve feed conversion, health management and growing techniques for different species.
Target/proposed species are:
Lack of funds and human resources are the two factors limiting development of the sector.
El Zein, G. 1997. Development Actuel de la peche et l’aquaculture au Liban. La pisciculture Francaise d’eau vive et d’etang saumatre et marine. Numero 130 – 4eme trimestre 1997 revue trimestrielle – 80F, pp. 13-27.
EL Zein, G. and AL Hawi, I. 2004. Essai de l'introduction d'une nouvelle espèce, Astacus astacus L., écrevisse (crayfish) au Liban, étude de son adaptation et possibilités de son élevage. L'Astaciculteur de France, No 79, pp. 2-9.
El Zein, G., Malti, P, and Darwish, S. 1997. Etude de Quelques parameters Pysico-Chimiques et Biologiques de l’Eau des Stations Piscicoles a la Bekaa. Lebanese Science Bullettin volume 10 number 4 1997, pp. 3-20.
Hamze, M. & Abul Khoudoud, A. 2001. Development and Agro-food ) Policies in the Mediterranean Region: Lebanon Country Report. CIHEAM
Majdaleinei, S. 2004. Aquaculture sector in Lebanon. An internal document in the Department of Fisheries and Wild Life –MOA.
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