The main production systems in Lithuania are represented by warm-water and cold water fish ponds. Among the main cultured species, the most important is the common carp (Cyprinus carpio ) which is not an endemic species in Lithuania. According to the Lithuanian register of the water bodies, the following water bodies are used for fisheries and aquaculture purposes: the Curonian lagoon covering 413 km2 ; 2 827 lakes covering 88 279.1 ha or 1.5 percent of the country's territory; 1 589 fish ponds, which cover 24 434 ha and 733 rivers longer than 10 km covering 32 559.1 ha. The total area of inland waters is 2 625 km2 or 4 percent of the of Lithuanian territory.
At present 82.2 percent of the lakes, 93.4 percent of the ponds and 49.7 percent of the rivers are on the list of water bodies of national importance. Fishing in these water bodies is subject to special licenses given by the national institutional bodies. Water bodies of national importance are under state control and for this reason they ensure a rather stable fish production.In 2004, 4 916 tonnes of fish were produced in the inland waters using mainly pond culture. On the national market there is a high demand for carps which are usually sold fresh at a marketable size between 800 and 1 500 g.
Fish pond aquaculture has a long tradition in Lithuania. The majority of Lithuanian ponds are used to rear carp which accounts for the largest part of pond aquaculture production and is highly valued among Lithuanian freshwater fish.
According to the fishery specialist Ričardas Volskis, the first real pond occurred in Lithuania in the 15th - 16th centuries. The Statute of 1529 of the Great Duchy of Lithuania had already established punishments for fishing in foreign ponds and for causing spoilage of the ponds.
In the 16th century, rich feudal lords as well as monarchs were interested in fish pond culture. Fish ponds provided both economic benefit and recreation.
In 1534 carp caviar was brought to Lithuania Minor (formerly the Klaipėda region). Common carp was introduced in Lithuania in the 17th - 18th centuries as a non-endemic species. The first book in Lithuanian on carp breeding and other fish was issued in Tilžė in 1899. Fish pond aquaculture blossomed at the end of the 19th century.
At the end of the 19th century and until the beginning of the 20th century the department of the imperial fishery and fish breeding association operated in Vilnius. A famous Lithuanian scientist, Mykolas Girdvainis (1841 - 1925), fishery and aquaculture specialist and pioneer of Lithuanian aquaculture, was learning and improving his knowledge and had visited the distinguished European scientific institutions as well as fish breeding and growing enterprises. He was famous not only in Lithuania and Poland, but also in Europe. Most of the fish pond farms were established in Lithuania at that time, under his supervision. The water area used for fish ponds comprised more than 10 000 ha. Girdvainis continued his work in this sector until 1916, when almost all the fishery institutions and enterprises which he had established were destroyed by the war.
The production systems in operation are warm-water ponds for carp breeding. Given the environmental conditions in Lithuania, the three-year breeding system is applied to produce carp to a marketable size. There is also cold-water aquaculture for trout and whitefish. Trout, salmon and sea trout are bred in closed systems. The first recirculating system in Lithuania was established for salmon and sea trout propagation.
Enterprises of medium size dominate in pond aquaculture, and the average annual number of employees is 10 - 49 people per enterprise. There is no detailed data available on full-time or part-time workers, level of education or gender.
In Lithuania, there are 18 fishery and aquaculture enterprises, two aquaculture closed-systems enterprises for eel rearing, one natural salmon breeding farm and over 50 farmers who carry out fish pond aquaculture on a commercial scale.
Common carp (Cyprinus carpio ) is not an endemic Lithuanian fish, but carp breeding in Lithuania has very old traditions. Carp has already been reared in Lithuania for several centuries. It is worth mentioning that carp, pikeperch, goldfish, peled, whitefish and European whitefish appeared in Lithuanian waters mainly by means of artificial breeding. In the present stage of carp selection, Hungarian carp is of great importance. Hungarian carp reared in the Lithuanian State Pisciculture and Fisheries Research Centre has been distributed in many Lithuanian fish pond farms.
Over the past ten years there have not been any introduced, transferred species or genetically improved species in the aquaculture industry. Endemic species are: tench (Tinca tinca ), freshwater bream (Abramis brama ), European whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus ), vendace (Coregonus albula ), northern pike (Esox lucius ), pike-perch (Stizostedion lucioperca ), burbot (Lota lota ), Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar ), sea trout (Salmo trutta trutta ), noble crayfish (Astacus astacus ).In the meantime, the majority of Lithuanian fish ponds are carp ponds, and common carp accounts for the majority of pond aquaculture production.
After the restoration of independence, when the economic situation changed, the priorities in carp farming also had to be changed. About 13-15 years ago, 7 600 - 7 800 tonnes per year of marketable carp were produced. More recently, only 2 500 tonnes per year of marketable carp have been produced. Earlier, carp farming was carried out very intensively and in great amounts. Nowadays, production focuses mainly on quality, conditions, eco-friendly techniques, growth rates, external appearance and market demand for carp.
About 95 percent of carp production is live/fresh carp. In addition to commercial fish, Lithuanian companies raise about 20 million pieces of one summer carp fry and 4 million pieces of two-summer carp fry. They also rear fish fry for re-stocking natural water bodies.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Lithuania according to FAO statistics:
Common carp is highly appreciated in the domestic market (although it is very limited) for its taste and firmness. On the domestic market, it is sold mostly before Christmas and New Year. In order to meet Lithuanian and foreign market requests, the weight of marketable carp is between 800-1 500 g. Such carps are grown over three summers despite the fact that the climatic conditions are quite chilly for rearing warm-water fish, including common carp.
In 2004, 1 818.6 tonnes of marketable fish produced in fish ponds were sold on the national market.
In Lithuania, 18 private fishery and aquaculture enterprises and about 50 farmers rear marketable carp. The area devoted to fish ponds is approximately 11 000 hectares. The majority of carp production - about 95 percent - is live/fresh carp. In 2003, about 1 100 tonnes of live eco-friendly carp were exported: 9 percent to Latvia, 19 percent to Poland, 19 percent to Germany and 3 percent to other countries. Exports comprised about 50 percent of total pond production.
Farmers organize the wholesale market themselves. According to the contracts concluded with buyers, fish farmers ensure delivery of their products, using their own transport, to their customers throughout the whole year, since all farmers have storehouses and live fish is kept in them. All fish producers must comply with the veterinary ratification requirements of the order of the State Food and Veterinary Service of the Republic of Lithuania Director No B1-146 of 1 March 2005. Otherwise trading is not allowed.
The Fisheries Department under the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for the administrative control of aquaculture. The aquaculture sector follows the normative acts of the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Lithuania and the State Food and Veterinary Service.
The aquaculture sector is subject to the laws passed by the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania, rulings of the Government, law supplementing acts, orders of the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of the Environment, procedures and regulations of the departments. The relevant law is the Law on Fisheries No IX 2193 of 29 April 2004. The following orders and regulations apply:
Lithuanian universities prepare biologists, ecologists and specialists in diseases. The following universities offer education in aquaculture in Lithuania: Vilnius University, Vilnius Pedagogical University, Klaipėda University, Lithuanian University of Agriculture, Šiauliai University, Lithuanian Veterinary Academy and Vytautas Magnus University.
Development trends in aquaculture are as follows:
Good results could be achieved by using all means of intensive fish breeding. However, due to a lack of circulating assets and limited fish marketing, these means are not sufficiently applied. The companies are oriented towards organic production, minimal water pollution and fish marketing requirements. For this reason the consumption of forages for fish feeding and the use of manure for fertilizing the ponds have decreased significantly.
In 2004, 8 869.6 tonnes of forage were used for fish feeding. This correlates with a pond productivity which over recent years has ranged between 450-650 kg/ha. In 2003, regulations on organic fishery product manufacture in ponds were ratified. In 2004, 13 stock companies and joint stock companies were manufacturing fishery products and the certified pond area comprised 3 825.1 ha. Unfortunately, the situation is complicated by the lack of organically grown forage, but this problem should be resolved as the organic growing areas and the growth of organically produced cereal increase. No less than 150 kg of fish pond production should be obtained from 1 ha of certified pond area.
Volskis Žuvininkystė, R. 1967. Vilnius, pp. 3 (in Lithuanian)
Lopeta Mūsų kraštas, V. Lietuvos kraštotyros draugijos leidinys - Vilnius., 1993 Nr.2(3) (in Lithuanian)
ST. Jankauskas Mykolas Girdvainis, Gamta - 1939-Nr.4 (16) - pp.253-258 (in Lithuanian)
W. Szczygielski. Zavys dziejow rybactwa srodlą dowego. - Warszawa, 1969-S26 (in Lithuanian)
Statistical Yearbook of Lithuania. 2004. Vilnius.