replaces: Arabic version (2005), Spanish version (2005), French version (2005), Chinese version (2005)
Aquaculture is mainly practiced in the following regions of the country: Bekaa, Akkar district of Northern 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 Hermer for trpout production. 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.
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 2010 estimation is 1 100 tonnes. In 2003 the total amount of imported fish, whether live, fresh or frozen (including crustaceans and molluscs) amounted to about 12 000 tonnes at an approximate value of USD 30 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.
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 150 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 1 100 tonnes (MOA figures). This is produced by 150 farms, 80 percent of which are in Hermel-North Bekaa, at a total value of USD 3.7 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 27 percent of local consumption. Aquaculture contributes about 10 percent of local production and 3 percent of local fish consumption.
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.
There are around 200 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.
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 g shrimp are sold live for USD 12/kg .
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Lebanon according to FAO statistics:
Compared to other Mediterranean countries, Lebanese fish consumption is still limited at 4 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 25 000 tonnes per year.
According to the Lebanese Customs Office, the total amount of imported fish in 2004, whether live, fresh or frozen (including crustaceans and molluscs) amounted to about 16 5000 tonnes (approximately USD 40 million). Turkey is number one exporting country (17 percent of total imports), followed by Egypt (9 percent), Argentina (7 percent), the United Kingdom (7 percent), India (6 percent) and Oman (5 percent).
However Lebanese fish exports amounted in 2004 to only USD 500 000, of which prepared products comprised the bulk of exported fish products. The main markets for the Lebanese crustaceans and molluscs are the Syrian Arab republic and Jordan. Prepared products go mainly to Burkina Faso, Central Africa, Gabon, Nigeria and Republic of the Congo.
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.
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.
Higher Customs Council, Ministry of Finance
Ministry of Agriculture home page