After 1990, the ponds that earlier belonged to collective farms and state farms were not used for fish production; they were, however, used by fish farmers/breeders, producing 615 tonnes in 2002 and 985 tonnes during 2003. Estimates provided by farmers of the quantity of fish produced are currently incomplete as these data do not cover more than 50 percent of fish farms existing in the country.
The Ministry of Agriculture approved the programme of development of the fish sector for 2002–2010, according to which it was planned to increase fish production up to 7 600 tonnes by 2010, out of which 5 600 tonnes should have been produced by the former state fish farms, while 200 tonnes would be supplied by the fish farmers/breeders. While development of fish enterprises was a significant backlog to the programme, the fish farmers/breeders were much ahead of the planned production quantity – during 2004 fish production from these sources reached 1 500 tonnes. This implies an overall increase in the production supplied by private producers by 2010 up to 5 000 tonnes, and an increase of up to 10 600 tonnes by 2010 at the country level.
In the coming years the use of intensive technologies and the creation of industrial aquaculture enterprises (cage and raceways) can result in a increase in fish production of 10 000 tonnes.
By 1957 fish pond farms produced 168 tonnes of fish, during the period in which state fish culture was being established. In 1964, the fish catches from internal reservoirs amounted to 1 500 tonnes, while those from ponds was 260 tonnes. In 1970 the main body with responsibility for the fish sector was the Directorate of Fish Culture under the Ministerial Council of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. A new Research Station of Fishery (the "Fish Farming Scientific and Research Station of Moldova" - NIRHS) was created to take care of research and experimental requirements. During this period some of the state farm ponds which were not being used for fish production were handed to Ukrribhoz (a state owned farm), on the basis of which 14 new fish farms were created.
In 1970 fish pond production amounted to 1 983 tonnes, in 1975 it grew to 4 570 tonnes, and by 1980 to 6 500 tonnes. The area of stocking ponds increased to 4 304 ha, and fish productivity went up to 1.5 tonnes/ha.
During this period, along with the intensive fish production in ponds, development of fish culture in water basins with multiple uses (i.e. small reservoirs) was started, the management structures of which were transferred to Ukrribhoz. The use of extensive technology in these reservoirs allowed for an increase in fish catches of up to 852 tonnes by 1985, with a fish productivity of 603 kg/ha.
In 1985 fish catches from ponds and small reservoirs amounted to 8 539 tonnes; by 1990 this had increased to 9 053 tonnes, with an average fish productivity of 1 tonne/ha; according to FAO statistics, the production was 7 141 tonnes. This difference in production figures is due to the inclusion of natural water basins in the government data, while FAO data only includes fish farming basins.
Along with the development of fish pond culture in the Republic of Moldova from 1968 to 1990, cage fish production was also established and developed.
Carp production in the warm waters of the cooling-reservoir of the Moldavian state hydropower station Kuchurgan reached a productivity of 189 kg/m³. In 1968 the aqua-operations of fish enterprises from Slobodzejsk produced 5 tonnes of marketable carp; this rose to 22 tonnes in 1971 and to 44 tonnes in 1987. During 1988 the capacity of the cage operations in Kuchurgan reservoir increased to 150 tonnes.
At the end of the 1980s, fish culture operations started, using warm water, situated on the bank of the Kuchurgani reservoir, which has a capacity of 1 000 tonnes. The capacity of cage operations were developed with a plan to reach a capacity of 500 000 tonnes. With the transition to the market economy in 1990, the pond operation facilities were not constructed and fish production in the cage system was also stopped.
The present stage of development of fish pond culture is characterized by a sharp decrease in production from 9 053 in 1996 to 1 042 tonnes in 2006. Fish production by the fish-breeding enterprises (former state fish farms) increased slightly between 1996 and 2002 to reach 1 643 tonnes, but it had decreased to 1 130 tonnes by 2004. At the same time, the emerging fish farmers/breeders increased the quota of their fish catches in the former state pondfarms, which previously had not been used for fish production.
Employers in the aquaculture sector are: 21 main fish-breeding enterprises (former fish farms), nine fish leasing enterprises of the Association Piscicola and 138 fish farmers/breeders. The fish breeding enterprises employ 480 workers, 200 are employed by the leasing enterprises and 400 by fish farmers/breeders.
Heads of the fish-breeding enterprises and the main aquaculture experts have high or middle specialised education and significant experience in aquaculture. The enterprises of Association Piscicola and the fish farms have workers without specialized education in fish-breeding or the appropriate experience in the field. More than 600 farmers were trained in the basics of fish pond culture by the Agency on Consulting and Training in Agriculture (ACSA).
In the aquaculture sector of the Republic of Moldova the workers are usually men, whereas women work as accounting personnel and as key experts of specific enterprises. The number of women does not exceed 10 percent.
The majority of fish farms are situated in the north, and account for one-fourth of total fish production. Most of the fish-breeding enterprises are located in the central part of the Republic (the 'V' zone of fishery). The potential for the development of fish farming operations is least in the southern part of the country due to the scarcity of water resources.
Ponds are located in channels of streams and on small rivers, tributaries of the river Dniestr (19 rivers) and the river Prut (nine) and in the region between the Dniestr and Danube rivers. In total, in the Republic of Moldova, more than 3 450 ponds and 80 reservoirs have been established. 1 850, or almost half of these farms, are located in the Dniestr river basin, 1 310 in the Prut river and 364 on other rivers.
The total area of artificial reservoirs is 27 000 ha with a total water volume of 1 800 million m³. Sources of water supply for reservoirs are tributaries of rivers such as Dniestr and Prut (7.5 percent), streams and rainfall (52.9 percent), springs (26.8 percent) and only rainfall (12.8 percent).
One of the particular features of water basins in the Republic of Moldova is the flooding which can occur during any time of the year and which causes fluctuations in water inflow during the annual cycle. The most stable water regimes are the northern and central water basins which receive a significant amount of supplementary water from underground sources. Less intensive water exchange is characteristic of the water basins located in the southern zone.
In 1981, carps of the breeds "Fresinet", mirror and scaled common carp were imported from Romania to the Teleneshty fish farm. Subsequently, given their weak resistance against red pest, 20 years were spent on selection of disease resistant carp forms. Two pedigree groups of carps were obtained: Teleneshty scaled and mirror carp.
In 1961 larvae of herbivorous species of fish were introduced from China. Thereafter, the silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix ), the bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis ) and the grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus ), were the focus of aquaculture activities. In the 1980s, herbivorous fish became the main objects of aquaculture in regard to the volume of production achieved.
During the present period, herbivorous fish account for 70 percent of all fish production, about 50 percent of which is the silver carp and 20 percent is the common carp and the crucian carp (Carassius carassius ). Intensive feeding with combined nutrition under the present conditions of extensive production led to an increase in the fish catches of grass carp, whose share is becoming significant in the general volume of aquaculture production (10 percent).
The pike-perch (Sander lucioperca ) is used as a biological improver in the aquaculture systems of Moldova, reproduction of which (up to 50 million pieces) is managed in the fish-breeding enterprise of the joint-stock company "Victoria" in the city of Edinets. The use of pike-perch increases pond productivity up to 100 kg/ha; however the size of the catches of pike-perch itself is not taken into account in the statistical data.
Until 1990, the channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus ), introduced in Moldova in 1976, was grown in pond conditions in the southern fish-breeding enterprises and in the Kuchurgani cooling reservoir. The propagation plan of channel catfish in pond operations of a hydropower dam assumed an introduction of 28 000 specimens, including 1 000 mature fish. However, due to the military conflict in the Transdniester region, breeding activities of the channel catfish were stopped. Considering that catfish is a species currently becoming acclimatized in the Kuchurgan cooling reservoir, its propagation under such conditions could be restored.
The Mississippi paddlefish (Polyodon spathula ) was introduced to the Republic of Moldova in 1978; its reproduction was begun in 1988. However, due to the limited number of fish broodstocks whose numbers have sharply decreased after 1990, cultivation of this valuable fish on a commercial scale was not possible.
Until 1990 pond cultivation of sturgeons was also undertaken in the Republic of Moldova, which included bester (hybrid of Huso huso x Acipenser ruthenus ), Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baeri ) and sterlet (Acipenser ruthenus ). At the end of the 1980s up to 1 tonne of marketable bester was cultured annually; in addition 200–250 kg of young sterlets and lensky sturgeon were produced for stocking of the Dubasary reservoir located on the Dniestr river.
Presently, attempts are being made for breeding the Wels catfish (Silurus glanis ) and so-iuy mullet (Mugil soiuy ). In 2004 researchers from the Institute of Zoology and employers of fish culture enterprises from Falesht introduced about 1 000 specimens of 3–5 gram fingerling, brought from Ukraine, to the ponds; by November their average weight reached 80 grams. Moreover the fish did well through the winter, raising hopes for successful introduction of this species into the country's aquaculture system.
Among the crustaceans, the Danube crayfish (Astacus leptodactylus ) is reared in ponds but, due to insignificant production values, they are not taken into consideration in the annual production statistics.
The technology of continuous production cycle requires that the stocking ponds are stocked with yearlings and reared for two years, after which an annual partial fishing is done (500–1 000 kg/ha) without total fish release or additional annual stocking. During the third year of the pond exploitation, the quantity of yearlings becomes proportional to that of caught fish (in pieces). In the sixth year of operation the pond is fished completely, drained and left unexploited for one year.
Reproduction of all stocks for aquaculture is carried out in incubatory hatcheries. The larvae which are obtained form incubatory hatcheries (about 30 percent) are subsequently grown in nursery ponds. Seed fry material is stocked in specially adapted ponds – rearing ponds, usually available at the fish-breeding enterprises where fish are reared up to the stage of one-summer fish. The total production of seed material is about 250 tonnes. A part of fish seed material, up to 59 tonnes, is also reared by fish farmers/breeders.
19 315 tonnes of fish and fish products are imported annually into the Republic of Moldova. According to government data, acquaculture production in 2002 was 2 258 tonnes with a value US$ 2 610 000. When disaggregated by production system, fish pond production (in tonnes) by fish breeding enterprises in Moldova was 9 053 in 1990, 1 400 in 1995, 1 334 in 2000, 1 643 in 2002, and is estimated to reach 5 600 in 2010; the corresponding figures for production by small-scale farmers in the years 2002, 2004 and 2010 is 615, 1 500 and 5 000 respectively. In other words, small-scale farmers accounted for less than half in 2002, overtook the fish breeding enterprises in 2004, and are expected to fall back somewhat again in 2010.
According to FAO statistics, the production in 1990 was 7 141 tonnes, and in 2002 it was 1 765 tonnes, with a value of US$ 1 904 000. As explained earlier, this difference in production figures arises because FAO data only count fish farming basins while the government data include natural water basins as well.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Moldova according to FAO statistics:
Trade charges account, on an average, for 10–15 percent of the total cost of fish, though in some districts it goes up to 20–25 percent. Fish is subjected to veterinary testing, establishing state standards and product certification control analysis. Without the presence of corresponding certificates fish farms cannot market their production in shopping centers. However, marketing of non-authorized fish still exists in the street markets, carried out especially by private individuals.
In 2002, 139 fish farms were recorded in the Republic of Moldova. In 2003–2004, together with ACSA (the Agency on Consulting in Agriculture) more than 600 farmers were involved in training and capacity building. It is predicted that in the next few years, given the area and number of ponds available, the number of farms will reach around 500. Considering these data, it can be roughly estimated that income to the rural communities from fish production could go above 8 million lei, or US$ 645 000, per year. Taxes paid by tenant-farmers to the villages can also become important sources of self-financing of villages.
The development of fish culture will also contribute with 2 000 new workplaces close to people's homes. Forecasts show that by 2010 production in these ponds will reach about 5 000 tonnes, and most of it will be consumed by the rural inhabitants. As there are 1 549 villages and settlements in the Republic of Moldova, and each rural settlement can supply more than 2 tonnes of cultured fish a year, the growth in fish production may show a corresponding increase in fish consumption.
The Academy of Sciences is the leader in supporting and coordinating fundamental and applied research for the development of aquaculture, most of which are concentrated in the Institute of Zoology and the Institute of Microbiology.
At present, Moldova is in the process of reorganizing scientific and research-cum-production institutes, including the ones which deal with the issues relating to aquaculture. The research stations for fish-breeding which provided state fish farms with assistance on scientific methods is therefore also under reorganization. After state accreditation, which became obligatory according to the code on development of science and innovation (which was accepted by Parliament in July 2004), all institutions, including establishments working in the field of aquaculture, were obliged to receive the certificate of accreditation by August 2004. The fish breeding station which earlier came under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture was, according to the decision of the Highest Scientific Board of the Republic of Moldova, to be included in the structure of the station attached to the Institute of Zoology of the Academy of Sciences.
Under the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, there is an Ichthyological Board which offers advice on fishery regulations in natural reservoirs, introduction of new species of fish and other issues connected with environmental issues. Members of the board are leading scientists and fish farm experts of the country.
At the end of the eighties when fish production in the Republic of Moldova reached nearly 10 000 tonnes, marketing, especially of those which did not reach the weight of 400 g, became complicated. Therefore, during this period employees of Fish Farming Scientific and Research Station of Moldova (NIRHS), under the biologist E.V. Kozhokaru, have developed the "Technology of cultivation of marketable fish in a three-year production cycle". This type of technology is based on the rearing of yearlings stocked in a density of 9.5–13.5 thousand/hectare to the stage of two and three years, with the prevalence of carps in polyculture system. This technology requires the use of aerators, pond liming, intensification of water circulation and a considerable amount of high-quality aqua feed.
The current situation of fish production systems does not allow the use of this technology, as in present conditions the application of aerators and high-quality feeds is not possible for economic reasons and, systems of good water circulation are not available.
Introduction of technology of continuous production cycle in ponds will allow fish farmers to obtain an annual catch up to 1 000 kg/ha, with an average weight of 1.0–1.5 kg and more, from the second year onwards. Therefore, there is a need to develop specific guidelines for the technology of continuous production cycle of fish cultivation because the current fish farms do not have the potential to drain the ponds every two years of exploitation. Besides there is no technological scheme for partial harvesting and regular fish stocking of the ponds. Technological recommendations should also describe the conditions necessary for wintering the ponds for those fish species adapted to wintering.
The Ministry of Agriculture approved the programme of development of the aquaculture sector of the Republic of Moldova for 2002–2010, according to which fish production should reach 7 600 tonnes by 2010, the quota for former fish farms being 5 600 tonnes and that of fish farmer breeders, 2000 tonnes.
Fish culture operations have shown promising results – in 2004 they produced 1 500 tonnes of fish. This makes it possible to predict an increase in fish production of upto 5 000 tonnes and an overall fish production of 10 600 tonnes for the Republic of Moldova by 2010. Thus, in the next few years, fish production can be increased by 10 000 tonnes with the use of intensive aquaculture technologies and the creation of industrial aquaculture enterprises using cage culture and closed recirculation systems.
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