Aquaculture in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia dates back to the early 1930s. Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and common carp (Cyprinus carpio) are the dominant species. Trout is cultured in the highland areas in concrete ponds. Warm water fish are cultivated in earthen ponds. All fish farms are family run. Total aquaculture production in 2004 was, according to FAO, 959 tonnes. A Macedonian Physical plan for the sector aims at an increase in production to 2 300 tonnes by 2010. The ministry of Agriculture, Food and Water Economy is in charge of the sector. Although the sector is governed by a fisheries law, fisheries legislation is limited by requirements to protect biodiversity. Research and education are severely constrained by limited resources.
Aquaculture began relatively early in the 1930s with the purpose of breeding offspring of the endemic Lake Ohrid trout (Salmo letnica) for stocking Lake Ohrid, and maintaining its native population. This process continues today and has much improved.
Fish farming is the only form of aquaculture in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. After the Second World War, trout fish farms were constructed at several places with a total annual production of 300 tonnes of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). In the 1950s ground carp farms were also established for culturing the common carp (Cyprinus carpio). In the late 1970s and early 1980s cage farming was introduced for both rainbow trout and carp in some of the irrigation or hydropower reservoirs. In the late 1980s, warm water polyculture was also applied introducing Asian fish species such as Chinese carps: grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus), silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix ), goldfish (Carassius auratus gibelio) and bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis). Trials were also conducted to cultivate warm water fish in the rice fields, but without much success.
Until the end of the 1980s the entire aquaculture sector was state-owned. Now the aquaculture sector is privately owned. Unfortunately the big warm water farms have been drastically reduced. Some have been totally abandoned and some other no longer exist. However, due to a decline in natural fish resources, mainly in the lakes, fish farming has increased over the last few years. The dominant species is the rainbow trout with its regular and albino forms. Of the warm water species the common carp is dominant. In the Physical Plan of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for the period 2002–2020 it is foreseen that fish farming production will increase from 989 tonnes to 2 300 tonnes. Until 1999 data on aquaculture was more comprehensive than at present due to the existence of an association of fishery and fish farming in the Macedonian Chamber of Commerce. An association of fish producers has been recently established.
There is no official data on the current number of people directly involved in fish farming, nor the number of fish farms. All the fish farms are currently family run businesses.
Due to the climate and hydrological conditions of the country, the biggest and the majority of the trout farms are in the western part of the country. In the watershed of the River Crni Drim (outlet from Lake Ohrid running towards the northwest) there are several small intensive trout farms in areas No. 1 (41º37' N, 20º59' E) and No. 2 (41º58' N, 20º62' E) with a total annual production of approximately 85 tonnes. In the central western part of the country No. 3 (41º51' N, 20º84' E), the watershed of the River Treska (right tributary of the RiverVardar), there are also several intensive farms with a total annual production of 190 tonnes. In the upper flow of Vardar area No. 4 (41º74' N, 20º84' E) and No. 5 (42º09' N, 21º11' E) there are also intensive fish farms producing 200 tonnes. In the northeast in the watershed of the River Bregalnica (left tributary of Vardar) area No. 6 (41º83' N, 22º24' E) the intensive trout farms have an annual production of 45 tonnes. With regard to the remaining small extensive trout farms (less than 10 tonnes per year per farm), they are dispersed all over the country in the mountain creek areas and the total annual production is estimated at 40–50 tonnes. The trout farms are 95 percent concrete ponds and the rest are small ground ponds. Almost all trout farms have their own hatcheries using their own broodstock or imported eyed eggs.
The warm water fish farms are mainly located in the lowland in the central region, such as intensive ground ponds in area No. 7 (40º99' N, 21º06' E) and semi-intensive in area No. 8 (40º95' N, 21º41' E) with a total annual production of 250–300 tonnes. In some of the lowland reservoirs intensive carp cage culture also exists in area No. 9 (41º39' N, 21º95' E) and area No. 10 (41º91' N, 21º98' E) producing around 50 tonnes. The rest of the small warm water ponds, together with extensive breeding of planktofagous fish for water quality control, amounts to an annual production of around 50 tonnes.
The main cultured species are the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) approximately 62 percent, common carp (Cyprinus carpio) approximately 28 percent; mirror carp about 3 percent and Chinese carps approximately 7 percent. Another fish culture activity which does not contribute to market aquaculture products, but is important for maintaining the endemic Ohrid trout (Salmo letnica) species, is located at two hatchery installations. One is the Hydrobiological Institute in the east coast Ohrid lake. It is the oldest aquaculture centre in the country (1935) with a production capacity of 2 million eggs. The other is in the northwest “Shum” with a production capacity of 5 million eggs (41º18' N, 20º63' E). The lake was formerly stocked mainly with fry, but now the policy is to stock with fingerlings 8-9 months old (from hatching) for the Macedonian part of the lake approximately 3 million individuals.
The warm water fish are reared mainly in earthen ponds with a smaller part using cages in some of the irrigation reservoirs. Experiments with breeding warm water fish in the rice fields are also carried out, as well as using geothermal waters or thermal waters from the cooling systems of thermo electro power plants.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia according to FAO statistics:
The main market season is usually in the late summer and late autumn harvest. This is also the period when a lot of orthodox religious holidays take place. Domestic aquaculture production cannot cover total market demand and is substituted by imports of frozen marine and freshwater fish.
Total consumption per capita in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is 4.08 kg. Of this, domestic production accounts for only 0.48 kg whilst the remaining 3.6 kg comes from imports.
Total GDP for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for 2003 (latest statistical data) is US$4 521 millions while aquaculture only accounts for US$7 million. The number of people who depend directly on aquaculture production amounts to only a few hundreds, which is almost insignificant compared to the total of 600 000 employees.
Aquaculture and fisheries in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are under the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy (MAFWE). Transformation of the jurisdiction of this ministry as well as the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning (MOEPP) are currently underway. The Department of Water Economy in the MAFWE has been removed and there is a tendency to transfer it to MOEPP, but in a much reduced form.Until the present day the MAFWE has been issuing water usage licenses for fish farming. The aquaculture producers are obliged to pay 5 percent of the gross market price of the fish into a special fund for fisheries development. Control of cultured fish species is also under this ministry, as well the quality and disease control.
Aquaculture and fisheries are regulated by the Fishery law (1993) which has to be adapted according the EU water framework directives. This law dealt mainly with fishery in open waters. However the new Law on Nature Protection, where biodiversity protection is the main issue, interferes with the fishery regulations with respect to native fish species. This law also incorporates a former Law for the Protection of Lakes Ohrid, Prespa and Dojran (1974), according to which aquaculture of non-native species in the watershed of these lakes was not allowed. Aquaculture laws and regulations would therefore need to be revised in terms of cultured species as well as outflow stream purification treatment because no specific regulations on these matters exist.
Several institutions carry out research into fisheries and aquaculture. However, their activities are severely constrained by limited financial and human resources.
The Physical Plan of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for the period 2002–2020 envisages an increasein fish farming production from 989 to 2 300 tonnes. This trend may not be achieved due to the envisaged implementation of necessary outflow streams purification treatment, which can increase operational costs.The Biodiversity protection issue may also have a negative affect on some of the farms which are not isolated from some biodiversity hot spots.Although some of the research institutions promote the culture of some native fish species, the existing aquaculture producers are not interested due to the slower growth rate.
Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning. Physical Plan of Macedonia for the period of 2002–2020.
State Statistic Institute. Annual bulletins.
Government of Macedonia. 1993 . Fishery Law.
Government of Macedonia. 1974 . Law on Protection of Lake Ohrid, Prespa and Dojran.
Government of Macedonia. 2005 . Law on Nature Protection.
IUCN Warsaw. 2004 . China Aquaculture Development and Outlook. Freshwater Fisheries in Central Europe: the Challenge of Sustainability.