1. Characteristics, structure and resources of the sector
    1. Summary
    2. History and general overview
    3. Human resources
    4. Cultured species
    5. Practices/systems of culture
  2. Sector performance
    1. Production
    2. Market and trade
    3. Contribution to the economy
  3. Promotion and management of the sector
    1. The institutional framework
    2. The governing regulations
    3. Applied research, education and training
  1. Trends, issues and development
    1. References
      1. Bibliography
      2. Related links
    Characteristics, structure and resources of the sector
    In 2004, aquaculture production in Morocco was 1 690 tonnes, which only accounted for 0.19 percent of total national fish production. Marine aquaculture output was 788 tonnes, or 47 percent of aggregate national aquaculture production, mainly of European seabass and gilthead seabream which accounted for 91 percent of total production. These two species were being intensively farmed, in floating cages in the lagoons, and in open water. This kind of aquaculture had begun in the 1980s, but then it stagnated, and even declined, as a result of the steep collapse of European market prices and the winding-up of two aquaculture companies. At the present time, there are two aquaculture companies still operating along the Mediterranean coast. The production is almost entirely exported to Italy, Spain and France.

    In 2004, inland aquaculture produced 685 tonnes, or 40 percent of total national aquaculture production. It was largely dominated by the common carp, accounting for 88 percent of output. All the production was used to restock the dammed ponds. Two companies produced carp for the National Office for Potable Water and Combating Dam Eutrophication (Office National de l'eau potable et la lutte contre l'eutrophisation des retenues). Fifty tonnes of rainbow trout were produced by only one company, raised semi-intensively in natural and artificial ponds, entirely for the local market.

    Ever since the emergence of marine shellfish culture in the 1950s, output has remained virtually unchanged at around 200 tonnes. In 2004, six enterprises produced 160 tonnes, mainly cupped oysters, for the local market.

    Several government departments share the management of national aquaculture. The Livestock Directorate at the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Maritime Fisheries (MADRPM) is responsible for enforcing health regulations. The High Commission for Waterways and Forests and Combating Desertification (HCEFLCD) manages and oversees inland aquaculture. Marine aquaculture is managed by the Maritime Fisheries Department of MADRPM, which is also responsible for issuing authorisation for all aquaculture projects, and for importing and marketing aquaculture products in close conjunction with the Livestock Directorate. Conversely, the Ministry of Public Works is responsible for issuing permits to occupy the public maritime domain.

    Government authorities acknowledge that there are many obstacles to developing aquaculture and have been trying to establish an economically viable and biologically stable aquaculture sector. It was against this background that the government sought FAO support in 1997 to carry out a survey of the national aquaculture potential. In 2003, the first National Aquaculture Days were organised for all the stakeholders involved in the sector. At the same time, HCEFLCD undertook on a survey of inland aquaculture and its development prospects.
    History and general overview
    Marine aquaculture began about 50 years ago when oysters were first bred in the Atlantic Oualidia Lagoon, south of Casablanca, producing approximately 200 tonnes. A few oyster farms are still operational.

    The first intensive sea fish breeding trials were undertaken in the 1980s on Mediterranean sites suitable for this kind of aquaculture. At the present time, the industry is dominated by two companies: Marost and Aqua M'diq.

    Marost (Nador Lagoon) was established in 1985 to develop the production of oysters, clams, shrimps/prawns, European seabass and gilthead seabream. But it was soon forced to change its range of products and adapt its production methods. Furthermore, the various production phases were integrated, from breeding to packaging and the shipping of the products, including in-house research and monitoring services (pathology, bacteriology, nutrition, etc). Production currently focuses on the European seabass and gilthead seabream. Aqua M'diq is on the Bay of M'diq, also on the Mediterranean coast.

    Inland aquaculture began in 1924 with the establishment of the fish farming station at Azrou. The original purpose of the facility was to promote angling as a sport, by breeding and releasing fingerlings with a high nutritional and economic value, particularly into the Middle Atlas Lakes and various dams and impoundments. After the 1980s, following communities of professional fishers had settled in these environments, the government redirected its work towards fish breeding for food production using intensive systems, in natural and artificial ponds.

    Private enterprise took off rapidly after the 1990s, with the guaranteed support of HCEFLD. A few private aquaculture units that are still in operation today and continue to raise eels, trout, common carp, Nile tilapia, and Pacific cupped oysters.

    In 2004, fisheries catches exceeded 907 626 tonnes worth, 559 millions US dollars. Aquaculture contributed 1 698 tonnes of this output, worth approximately 6.4 million US dollars.
    Human resources
    At the present time aquaculture employed 607 people nationwide, 454 of whom are full-time, 112 are occasional workers, and 41 perform miscellaneous duties (fisheries, wholesalers, intermediaries, transporters, etc.). It should nevertheless be noted that each of these people provide a livelihood for an average of five other people, totalling, some 3 000 people. The following table gives the breakdown by enterprise in June 2005:
    Entreprise Permanent
    Marost* 96 10 41 147
    Aqua M'diq 20 15 0 35
    Dakhla 10 - - 10
    Khnéfiss 7 - - 7
    Oualidia 128 17 - 145
    Inland aquaculture 48 70 - 118
    CNPH 10 - - 10
    INRH 40 - - 40
    Science faculties 95 - - 95
    TOTAL 454 112 41 607
    Source: Survey by Me El Ahdal, SIPAM National Coordinator
    (*) The figures on the Marost Company are likely to fall significantly over the coming months
    Cultured species
    The following marine species are currently being farmed:
    • Gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) and European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax): indigenous species, namely, alevins caught in a natural environment and lagoon-fattened (Nador), and alevins imported from Spain, pre-fattened in tanks and then fattened in cages in the lagoon (Nador). Hatcheries and nurseries developed locally by the Marost Company.
    • Since October 2003, the cage-culture of meagre (Argyrosomus regius) has been practised.
    • Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus): the traditional practice of fattening bluefin tuna caught using “madrague” tuna nets in the course of the Atlantic-Mediterranean migrations.
    • Portuguese cupped oyster (Crassostrea angulata): a species imported in the 1950s from Spain and Portugal by Moroccan investors.
    • Gasar cupped oyster (Crassostrea gasar): a species imported from Senegal for fattening on the Atlantic coast.
    • Pacific cupped oyster (Crassostrea gigas): a species imported from Japan for fattening on the Atlantic coast; at the present time, French oyster spat is imported for breeding on the Oualidia site. Spat breeding trials are being conducted at Marost for fattening at Oualidia, and imports are being gradually replaced.
    • Flat European oyster (Ostrea edulis): an indigenous Mediterranean species, initially bred in Nador lagoon; breeding is underdeveloped because of export issues.
    • Grooved carpet shell (Ruditapes decussatus): indigenous Mediterranean and Atlantic species; fished on natural clam beds for export to the European markets.
    • Kuruma prawn (Penaeus japonicus), a non-indigenous species imported from Europe in a post-larval state for the Mediterranean aquaculture farms; production trials are being conducted by Marost and SAM.
    Both indigenous and exotic species are farmed in inland aquaculture farms. The indigenous species: brown trout (Salmo trutta fario macrostigma), barbel (Barbus barbus), the European eel (Anguilla anguilla), allis shad (Alosa alosa), twaite shad (Alosa finte) and flathead grey mullet (Mugil cephalus).

    Some of the aquaculture species introduced less than half a century ago have become acclimatised and are currently in production: rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), Northern pike (Esox lucius), common carp (Cyprinus carpio), grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus), silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), European perch (Perca fluviatilis), pike-perch (Stizostedion lucioperca), Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), noble crayfish (Astacus astacus) and spinycheek crayfish (Orconectes limosus).

    At the present time these species are being artificially reproduced in the National Hydrobiology and Aquaculture Centre (Centre National d'Hydrobiologie et de Pisciculture – CNHP) stations which produce more than 2 million fry anually. These fry are routinely planted in different aquatic environments to enrich their ichthyological fauna. The development of restocking aquaculture of this kind has improved commercial fisheries yields, given an impetus to angling and helped to combat the eutrophication of the irrigation channels and impoundments lakes used as sources of drinking water.
    Practices/systems of culture
    Despite the several thousand kilometres of Atlantic and Mediterranean coastline, very few sites are suitable for marine aquaculture farms because of a shortage of sheltered, permanent sites on the Atlantic coast and the constant heavy swell it is subjected to. Under these circumstances, sheltered lagoons, estuaries and bays are ideal places for developing marine aquaculture. But these are areas in which there is a conflict of powers between different ministerial departments.

    There are currently three types of marine aquaculture:
    1. In protected marine, lagoon or estuary environments.
    2. In basins replenished with pumped seawater.
    3. In cages in the open sea (at 20-30 m depth contours).
    Only two species are raised in marine aquaculture environments: the European bass and the gilthead seabream. In October 2003, they were joined by the common meagre. They are farmed intensively in cages, in the lagoon or in the open sea, producing approximately 800 tonnes annually.

    Cupped oysters are raised on beds, in the intertidal area.

    The following hatcheries are currently operating:
    • One commercial hatchery using cupped oyster and mussel spat.
    • Several commercial fish production hatcheries (carp, trout, bass, gilthead, etc.).
    • Two experimental fry production hatcheries at the National Institute of Fish Research (Institut National de Recherche Halieutique) and the National Hydrobiology and Aquaculture Research Centre (Centre National de Recherche en Hydrobiologie et Pisciculture).
    Two other units are also producing trout and marine fish feed on a small-scale (experimental project).

    Inland aquaculture mainly comprises:
    • Salmon culture by restocking, annually producing rainbow trout juveniles to be used to restock the main salmon culture environments and water bodies.
    • Commercial salmon culture at the Domaine Ain Aghbal fish farm, which is still the largest. Essentially, two species are produced: rainbow trout and golden trout. Production in 2003 was 50 tonnes.
    • Carp culture, with three main producers along the Oued Oum er Rbia, Loukkos and Smir waterways. Most of the carp fingerlings produced are assigned to the National Drinking Water Office (Office national de l'eau potable) to stock impoundments and for biological counter-eutrophication, and the Agricultural Development Offices (Offices de mise en valeur agricole) to combat the development of macrophytes in irrigation channels.
    • Eel culture. Three companies have eel raising facilities (Aquagruppen, Aquastar at Oued de Sebou and Pêcherie marocco-ibérique at Loukkos). Output is low due to a lack of elver whose numbers have been affected by the unfavourable climatic conditions and the serious levels of pollution in the estuaries.
    • Farming of carnivores for restocking purposes, by the National Centre of Hydrobiology and Aquaculture. The main species being produced are pike and black-bass. The juveniles produced are mainly for stocking lakes, the large impoundments and the hillside dams.
    • Tilapiculture. In order to diversify production the "Pisciculture du nord" company introduced Nile tilapia in April 2004, procured from Egypt. It is semi-intensively farmed in a controlled environment.
    The marshy Gharb region has all the key elements needed to raise this species. The marginal lands that are unsuitable for agriculture can be used for building aquaculture ponds. Likewise, CNHP has begun trials to raise this species in the Middle Atlas region at Déroua, with highly encouraging results.

    The different types of aquaculture are regulated by the regulations governing water resources and fisheries and any other activities which might pose risks to the environment. Farming licences are issued by the High Commission for Waterways and Forests and Desertification (Haut Commissariat aux eaux et forêts et de la desertification).
    Sector performance
    In 2002, reported domestic aquaculture production was 1 670 tonnes (FAO, 2004). Seabream accounted for about 22.6 percent, seabass 19.5 percent and cupped oysters 15.2 percent. The production of these three species has remained stable over the past few years.

    Conversely, carp production (common carp, grass carp, and silver carp) has fallen by 65 percent below 1999, when production reached 1 400 tonnes. Rainbow trout production is below 100 tonnes/year. 2002 was a good year for Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis) production, a commodity which has become increasingly grown in importance in recent years.

    The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Morocco according to FAO statistics:

    Market and trade
    Sales on the domestic market are very small. In recent years, a few companies have decided to supply the supermarkets in such large towns and cities as Casablanca, Rabat, Fès, Agadir, Marrakech, etc. on a trial basis.

    The domestic market currently offers a potential outlet for part of the production of the aquaculture enterprises, above all when the aquaculture products are plentiful and selling prices are too low to attract any parties other than the enterprises.

    Aaquaculture enterprises only place a limited range of products on the market: seabass, seabream and oysters. The average price per kilogram is roughly US$4.80 for seabream, US$5.60 for seabass, while the same species from maritime fisheries are sold at US$8.50 and US$9.70, respectively.

    In 2004, marine aquaculture enterprises marketed over 700 tonnes of seabass and seabream alone. Some enterprises perform all the operations, through to marketing (sorting, sizing, packaging, shipping).

    At the present time these enterprises are suffering from a serious financial crisis due to the slump in seabass and seabream prices on the European market. Because of this crisis, even though some 20 permits were issued to set up aquaculture companies between 1999 and 2002, only a handful have actually been implemented.

    In inland aquaculture, the selling price per kilo is US$5 for rainbow trout, US$9 for eels and US$3 for oysters. All these products are marketed locally with the exception of eels, of which a small proportion are locally consumed.

    For the export market, products are transported by air or by road. In the latter case, the haulier takes responsibility for distributing the products on the international market, through to the end customer.

    The target markets are basically the Mediterranean European countries. Italy is still the main outlet, taking over 60 percent of exports; France and Spain together account for 30 percent; Germany and the United Kingdom take only small quantities.
    In order to market these products within the European Union human health and animal health procedures have had to be put in place, mainly for exported shellfish.
    Contribution to the economy
    Fisheries make a huge contribution to the national trade balance (16 percent of the exports in terms of value in 2004; about 55 percent of national agrifood product exports).

    Marine aquaculture is basically focused on seabass and seabream production, and is excluded from the domestic market.

    Generally speaking, aquaculture makes a negligible contribution to the Moroccan national economy.
    Promotion and management of the sector
    The institutional framework
    In the absence of a national aquaculture policy and consequently a lack of development goals for aquaculture, no specialised institutions exist. Fisheries, coastal tourism and agriculture are considered the main economic activities forming the institutional framework with which any initiative for aquaculture development has to come to terms today.

    There are many ministerial departments, administrative public agencies and other institutions whose powers can influence the development of aquaculture. At the central level is the Fisheries Department and the Ministries for Waterways and Forests, Environment, Public Works, Trade and Health, and the National Council for Water and Climate (Conseil supérieur de l'eau et du climat – CSEC), the National Environment Council (Conseil national de l'environnement – CNE), the Interdepartmental Commission for Tourism and Coastal Development – CICATL), the National Fish Research Institute (Institut national de recherche halieutique – INRH), the National Aquaculture Committee (Comité national de l'aquaculture – CAN) and the International Committee for Environmental Impact Studies (Comité national des études d'impact sur l'environnement).
    The governing regulations
    The current legal instruments, which are often very old and no longer meet the needs of modern natural resource management, are expected to be replaced by new texts in the foreseeable future. The legal reforms that have been announced have already begun to be implemented in various ministerial departments as one can see from the remarkable number of bills that are currently being prepared or have already been completed.

    As a general rule, anyone wishing to establish or operate a marine aquaculture establishment must firstly obtain a number of permits issued by different government departments and agencies, of which the main ones are an installation and exploitation licence issued by the Department of Maritime Fisheries.

    Act No. 1-73-255 of 23 November 1973, regulating maritime fisheries, is the basic text governing all maritime fisheries. This text, which is primarily designed to regulate maritime fisheries, also deals with marine aquaculture and consequently contains very few provisions regarding the installation and operation of an aquaculture establishment.

    The scope of this law is set by the definition of the concept of maritime fisheries: “Maritime fisheries means all fishing performed at sea and along the coasts and in lagoons classified as such by decree lying outside running and stagnating water on land belonging to the public domain”. Two lagoons have been so classified by decree: Moulay Bousselham (June 1931) and Oualidia (February 1951).

    Despite the lack of precision, this notion should probably also be viewed in its broad sense to include marine aquaculture activities. Consequently, the common regime for fisheries in inland waters, which falls within the remit of the Ministry of Waterways and Forests, also applies to lagoon-based aquaculture activities.

    An analysis of the provisions governing coastal aquaculture in the maritime fisheries and inland fisheries legislation reveals three main flaws in current legislation:
    • The lack of an instrument applying the conditions and modalities for installing and operating marine aquaculture establishments.
    • An inadequate legal framework.
    • Conflict of territorial jurisdiction between the Department of Maritime Fisheries and the High Commission for Waterways, Forests and Desertification.
    The Interdepartmental Fisheries/Agriculture Circular dated 12 November 2001 lays down the conditions for the production (classification of the shellfish zones) and marketing of live shellfish (legal recognition of establishments, quality standards, self-regulation).

    Under this circular, INRH is responsible for studying, classifying and overseeing shellfish production zones (natural or farmed beds). After classifying these areas according to their health standards they are regularly supervised in order to screen out shellfish contamination, particularly in the event of harmful phytoplanktonic infestations (red tides), in which case the zones may no longer be used until the environment has been completely cleansed.

    While the supervision of marine shellfish quality is supervised by INRH, once the shellfish has been removed from the marine environment the quality control is performed by veterinarians working for the Livestock Directorate at the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Maritime Fisheries.

    For fish, animal health procedures are currently being established.

    For more information on aquaculture legislation, please click on the following link (in French):
    National Aquaculture Legislation Overview - Morocco
    Applied research, education and training
    Marine aquaculture research is undertaken by the National Institute for Fish Research (Institut National de Recherche Halieutique – INRH), instituted in 1996 as an autonomous public agency under the responsibility of the Department of Maritime Fisheries.

    INRH has the responsibility for conducting research, studies, trials and operations on land and sea to manage and rationalise fish and aquaculture resource management and improvement.

    It is therefore responsible for:
    • Evaluating fish resources and monitoring their exploitation.
    • Oversight of the marine environment.
    • Studying the behaviour of marine and coastal ecosystems.
    • Improving fishery techniques and fisheries products.
    • Aquaculture research.
    INRH has a central structure and a regional structure. The latter comprises five regional centres (Nador, Agadir, Laayoune, Dakhla and Tanger), a coastal network of nine marine health monitoring stations and two specialised centres, one at Agadir (maritime products promotion and technology) and one at M'diq (aquaculture research).

    The INRH research and aquaculture development programmes are drawn up within the general framework of the strategy set out by the supervisory Ministry, taking account of the recommendations of its Executive Board, Scientific Committee and the National Council for Exploiting and Safeguarding Fish Resources (Conseil supérieur de l'exploitation et de la sauvegarde des ressources halieutiques). The main thrusts of aquaculture research are:
    • Identifying and classifying potential aquaculture sites.
    • Developing aquaculture technologies (reproduction, diseases and feed).
    Inland aquaculture research is performed by the National Hydrobiology Aquaculture Sector (Centre national d'hydrobiologie et de pisciculture – CNHP) at Azro, which is under the supervision of the High Commissioner for Waterways and Forests and Combating Desertification (Haut Commissariat aux eaux et forêts et la lutte contre la désertification – HCEFLD). The remit of this Centre is to generate knowledge and appropriate technologies for developing water bodies, create employment and contribute to the development of inland aquaculture.

    Higher education is provided at the Hasan II Agriculture and Veterinary Institute (Institut agronomique et vétérinaire Hassan II - IAV Hassan II) in Rabat and by a few science faculties (at Tétouan, Tanger, Kenitra, El Jadida, and Agadir), which provide general training courses. During the first six months of 2005, under a cooperation agreement between Morocco and Spain and with establishment of a professional aquaculture voicational training programme, specialised courses were provided for trainers in the education/training centres and for technicians working with the aquaculture enterprises. These training courses were run at the Professional Specialisation Centre (Centre de qualification professionnelle) at Larache, Spanish aquaculture enterprises, and the INRH specialised education Centre at M'diq.
    Trends, issues and development
    Being highly dependent on the international aquaculture environment, national aquaculture development could not possibly be envisaged without taking due account of international constraints, trends and strategies.

    On the one hand, the Atlantic coast, by virtue of the quality of the water (the presence of upwelling) appears suitable for shellfish culture; on the other hand, the Mediterranean coast possesses real potential for intensive fish breeding.

    At the present time, aquaculture feed is being imported from Europe. This constitutes a major constraint on the competitiveness of Moroccan products on foreign markets. Discussions are currently taking place with the private sector, IAV Hassan II and INRH, for the local manufacture of aquaculture feed.

    For inland aquaculture, a strategy adopted by the High Commission for Waterways and Forests and Combating Desertification for this sector is designed to maximise the socio-economic fallout on the rural world by stepping up the production of animal protein and by job creation. This being so, the following actions and avenues are envisaged:
    • Fostering the installation of aquaculture units.
    • Providing technical and scientific assistance to these units.
    • Encouraging producers to organise themselves.
    • Encouraging co-operation, coordination and the exchange of information between the stakeholders.
    • Developing elver fisheries and eel production by providing enhanced technical assistance to the lessees, sensitising the fisheries and combating poaching.
    • Contributing to combating pollution and monitoring water quality.
    • Rehabilitating endemic species such as the eel and the shad within the framework of international cooperation projects.
    • Developing mullet breeding and fisheries, as a species that is able to improve commercial fisheries.
    Berraho A. & Orbi A. 1996 . Potentialités aquacoles du littoral et perspectives futures. Doc. INRH.
    Catanzano. 1998 . Appui à l'étude des potentialités de développement en Aquaculture. Projet TCP/FAO/MOR 5612, 117 p.
    Département des Pêches Maritimes. 2003 . Rapport d'activité 2003. Doc. Dept. des Pêches Maritimes.
    Département des pêches maritimes. 2004 . Mer en chiffres 2004. Document du Département des pêches maritimes. 69 p.
    FAO. 2004 . Fishery Statistics. Yearbook Aquaculture production 2002. Vol.94/2. Rome, FAO. 193 p.
    Haut Commissariat aux Eaux et Forêts et à la Lutte contre la Désertification. 2005 . Rapport annuel de la pêche continentale de 2000 à 2004. Doc. HCEFLD
    INRH. 2004 . Plan de Surveillance des maladies des poissons d'aquaculture au Maroc. Doc. INRH, 40 p.
    ONP. 2004 . Rapport statistiques 2004. La pêche côtière et artisanale au Maroc. Doc. ONP. 37 p.
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