The first report on pond building on Slovak territory dates back to the 12th century. In the 16th century the first handbook was written on fish farming. A dynamic development of the sector took place in the second half of the 20th century. Total fish production in aquaculture is showing an increasing trend: in 2004 it reached 1 181 tonnes. The economic role of fisheries in the Slovak national economy is insignificant: in 2004 fisheries accounted for 0.002 percent of GDP. Fish consumption is also low, amounting to 4.2 kg per capita in 2004. In Slovakia fish farming consists of both salmonid (cold-water species) production, mainly trout, and cyprinid (warm-water species) production, mainly carp. Production is based mainly on rainbow trout (69.5 percent) and carp (29.2 percent). The remainder is made up of predatory fish (0.48 percent), Chinese carps (0.25 percent) and other fish species (0.53 percent). Salmonids farming is carried out in approximately 26 600 m3 of special grow-out units (raceways, tanks, cages etc.). Approximately 1 600 ha of ponds and 500 ha of small water reservoirs are available for the culture of warm-water species. About 760 people are employed in the sector. A considerable part of the fish production in Slovakia is used for fish stocking. The outlook for increased production in the future is possible. However, there are numerous problems to be solved, and these are mentioned in this document. In particular, a limiting factor is the conflict of interests between fish farming and environmental interests.
Slovakia is an inland and mostly mountainous country, situated at the watershed of two seas: the Baltic Sea (the River Dunajec as a tributary of the River Vistula) and the Black Sea (River Danube). There are 29 748 km of main running waters and 287 water storage dams with a total water surface area of 227 km2 . In addition to rivers, there are more than 1 750 km dewatering, irrigation and artificial channels and intakes. There are also over 450 fish-culture units and over 200 natural lakes.
The history of aquaculture in the Slovak Republic dates back to the 12th century, with the first report on pond building (Holcík, 1998). In addition to cloisters and vicarages, in the Middle Ages the ponds were also built by fish boroughs. In the 15th and 16th century ponds were more important than arable land, due to their yields. Reinforcing the existence of ponds in Slovakia in ancient times, Jan Dubravius (the Bishop of Olomouc, in what is now the Czech Republic) wrote a book in the 16th century entitled "About Ponds." It is one of the first handbooks on fish farming produced in the country.
At the time large-scale ponds were built in the region of Záhorie, and around Kosice, Humenné, Michalovce and Gbelce cities . The development of fish farming was halted by the Turkish occupation of the southern Slovak regions (Holcík, 1998). Pond building was also halted in the northern Slovak regions. Ponds were built mainly by the aristocracy in the regions of Orava, Turiec and Trencín (Kirka, 1996). In the 16th century a system of ponds in the Lietava dominion (allegedly 19-32 ponds) was built. In the 17th century the well-known mining ponds - tajchs - near Banská Stiavnica city were built and are still used today for fish husbandry (Cíhar, 1983). Together with the Turkish occupation of the southern regions, there was a large-scale revolt led by the aristocracy against the king in the northern regions and this blocked fish farming development. Ponds were destroyed and converted to pasture land. This situation persisted until the first half of the 19th century.
Fish farming development recommenced in the Slovak Republic in the second half of the 19th century. At the end of the 19th century there were 25 hatcheries (for salmonids) and in 1913 there were 81 hatcheries with a capacity of 12 million eggs. In 1934 the number fell to 38 (Randík, 1968). At the beginning of the 20th century there were allegedly about 400 ha of ponds (Dyk, et al . 1956). The pond surface area from 1948 was reported to be 292 ha, with a production of 20 tonnes (Fekete, 1951). The author made a conceptual design for the construction of 20 000 ha of new ponds on the Slovak territory. This aim was realised on a small-scale by the State Fishery which was established in 1954 and employed about 250 people. After 1989 the individual centres of the State Fishery were privatized. At the end of the 20th century there was a total of 1 200 ha of ponds (Volcek et al ., 1961). Salmonid culture was developed mainly by the Slovak Anglers' Union. In 1983 in Slovakia there were 14 hatcheries, 11 of which for salmonids (Pokorný et al ., 1992).
There are currently 760 people employed in the aquaculture sector and 868 people employed in the processing sector. In the aquaculture sector 85 percent of the workers are men and 15 percent are women. About 30 percent are employed full-time and the remainder are employed seasonally. Most of them have appropriate fisheries-related education from vocational training, college and/or university.
Only private owners and companies currently operate in the Slovak freshwater aquaculture. In 2004, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, there were 33 fish farms in operation, practicing cyprinid (warm-water species) production in ponds, including predatory fish species, such as Northern pike, zander and wels catfish. Of these, 15 were family-owned farms, 14 cooperatives and 4 companies. There were 32 fish farms using intensive farming systems for salmonids (cold-water species) production including grayling, and sterlet. Of these 15 were family-owned, 14 cooperatives and 3 were companies.
The pond farms are situated mainly in the lowlands in the east and southwest regions. The salmonid farms are located mainly in the sub-mountains in the north and middle regions of the Slovak Republic. The total surface area of ponds and small water reservoirs used for aquaculture reached about 2 100 ha in 2004. In the same year the production volume of fish-culture units, such as nursery tanks, raceways, cages, etc., used in salmonid production reached over 23 000 m3 .
Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss ) is the dominant species, accounting for about 70 percent of total production. It is marketed at 250 g or more of its live weight after 16-24 months. The fry of rainbow trout is acquired by incubating eggs at hatching apparatuses in the hatcheries, where they are also reared to an early stage. Afterwards, the fry is reared in troughs in the nurseries and/or specialized indoor rearing facilities. When six months old the fish are cultured in outdoor conditions in raceways and ponds. Trout production is based on pelleted feed mixtures.
The production of common carp (Cyprinus carpio ) accounts for approximately 20 percent of total production. Common carp is marketed at 2 kg or more of its live weight, after 3-4 growth seasons. The bulk production of carp fry is achieved by incubating eggs in jar incubators. After incubation, the early carp fry is reared in troughs or transferred to special fry ponds, where they are reared to one year old. After the first year carps are cultured in outdoor ponds. The majority of carp production is based on natural food - zooplankton and zoobenthos. Active feeding is also applied, mainly with cereals during summer time. Common carp is supplemented in polyculture stocks by other fish species: Prussian carp (Carassius gibelio ), grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus ), bighead carp (Aristichthys nobilis ), silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix ), tench (Tinca tinca ), and some predatory fish such as Northern pike (Esox lucius ), zander (Sander lucioperca ), and wels catfish (Silurus glanis ). In addition, at higher altitudes, brown trout (Salmo trutta fario ) is also reared in monoculture systems.
Pond culture of common carp is the traditional and most common form of aquaculture in the Slovak Republic whereby a semi-intensive technique is utilized. To increase production, the intensifying factors on ponds, such as fertilization, use of lime, summer drying, winter drying, etc. are applied. Polyculture stocks are also an important aspect of pond farming in the Slovak Republic. Common carp is cultured as a main fish species along with Chinese carps (grass carp, bighead and silver carp), traditional supplementary fish (tench) and predatory species (Northern pike, zander and wels catfish). In some highland ponds, rainbow trout are also cultured as the main species, supplemented by carp. Fish production from ponds reaches about 30 percent of total production.
Brown trout is farmed at trout farms mainly in special grow-out units, such as nursery tanks, raceways, cages etc., at higher altitudes. It is an intensive technique of trout farming, where only monoculture stocks are used. Special culture units in the form of tanks and raceways are mostly used (about 60 percent), followed by cages (about 30 percent). Marketable fish production from the special culture units reaches about 70 percent. In addition to marketable fish, rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss ), brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis ), brown trout (Salmo trutta fario ) and grayling (Thymallus thymallus ) are also cultured, particularly for stocking angling grounds.
Before 1989, commercial fish production was owned and run by state fishery enterprises. After the state fishery was disbanded, fish-farming was transferred to private firms. There are currently over 70 registered and licensed companies engaged in fish farm production, half of which breed the salmonids (including grayling) and the other half breed the cyprinids (including Northern pike, zander and wels catfish). According to the Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic total fish farm production of marketable fish in 2004 was 1 181 tonnes. Most of this production was rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss - 69.3 percent), followed by common carp (Cyprinus carpio - 20.2 percent). The remainder (about 10 percent) comprised Prussian carp (Carassius gibelio ), Northern pike (Esox lucius ), brown trout (Salmo trutta fario ), grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus ), and silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix ). In one thermal fish farm in eastern Slovakia, North African catfish (Clarias gariepinus ) is bred. The production in 2003 was 2.6 tonnes, which is negligible. Insignificant amounts of brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis ), tench (Tinca tinca ), bighead carp (Aristichthys nobilis ), wels catfish (Silurus glanis ) and zander (Sander lucioperca ) are produced. The list of cultured fish species is presented in Table 1.
Table 1. Production of cultured fish species (in tonnes) during 2000-2004
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Slovakia according to FAO statistics:
There is market demand for domestic fish production, imported marine fish, as well as freshwater fish. Slovakia is only self-sufficient in its domestic production of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss ). The production of common carp (Cyprinus carpio ) cannot fully satisfy national market requirements. As a result, during the Christmas season, when demand is highest, carp is imported, mainly from the Czech Republic. All marine fish, as well as seafood (crustaceans and molluscs), are imported. In 2004, according to the Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic, total imported fish and fish products amounted to over 14 900 tonnes, of which 63.8 percent was processed fish and fillets, 23.8 percent frozen fish, 8.6 percent live fish, 2.2 percent fresh and/or chilled fish, and 1.1 percent dried, salted and smoked fish. Exported fish and fish products account for over 25 percent of total fish production and in 2004 amounted to 298 tonnes.
In 2004 per capita fish consumption was 4.2 kg/year, which is rather low compared to other countries because fish (mostly carp) is traditionally only eaten at Christmas. Fish consumption above 4.0 kg per person is a long-term trend in Slovakia, although recommended consumption is 6.0 kg per person. Fish consumption in the Slovak Republic is about 3 percent of total per capita meat consumption. The consumption of fish also varies between regions. The relatively higher fish consumption in the south-western regions is due to higher living standards.
The economic role of fisheries and aquaculture in the Slovak national economy is marginal. In 2004 agriculture accounted for 3.03 percent of GDP (US$ 1.37 billion US$) and fisheries and aquaculture 0.002 percent of GDP (US$ 82.2 million US$). GDP for Slovakia in 2004 was US$ 41.4 billion. Pond farming in the lowlands and trout culture at high altitudes play an important social role in maintaining local populations in their native places. In addition to the social role, aquaculture also contributes to the development of recreation, rural tourism and water management.
Since May 2003, two ministries have administered the Slovak fisheries and aquaculture. Aquaculture and inland fisheries in relation to the EU is administered by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Slovak Republic in Bratislava. The state administration of aquaculture and inland fisheries is run by the Department of Animal Commodities. Because the sector is so small, there are no regional centres. When the Slovak Republic became a member of the European Union in 2004, structural funding from the EU's Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) became available for, among other things, the modernization of the aquaculture sector. In line with FIFG, measures for the modernization of the aquaculture and processing sector in Slovakia have been outlined in its Operational Programme for Agricultural and Rural Development (Fisheries Measures).
The State Veterinary and Food Administration of Slovak Republic is responsible for health and hygiene and is organized by region (Bratislava, Trnava, Nitra, Trencín, Banská Bystrica, Zilina, Presov and Kosice). Individual regional veterinary and food administrations at district veterinary and food administrations are organized, and those institutions carry out the inspections on individual farms.
The Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic in Bratislava administers recreational fishing as well as water resource management. Part of the fisheries administration is also carried out by the Slovak Anglers' Union, under authority of Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic. This Union was established in 1926 and currently brings together 122 local angling organizations, covering the entire country. The Slovak Anglers' Union is responsible for issuing fishing licenses, stocking waters, and enforcing regulations.The aquaculture sector is administered by the Slovak Fish Farmers Association. Established in 1999, this association currently has 17 members, representing fish farming, the processing industry, trade, the fishery schools and fisheries research. The Slovak Fish Farmers Association represents two thirds of total fish production in the Slovak Republic.
Fish farming is governed by the Fisheries Act 139/2002. A new Act on Aquaculture, which will lay down the conditions for fish farming, is currently being prepared. The following items of legislation, including the Fisheries Act, are relevant to the aquaculture sector:
There are currently no specialized fisheries research institutes in Slovakia. The former Institute of Fishery Research and Hydrobiology in Bratislava was split in 1990 into the Institute of Fishery Research and Aquaculture, and the Department of Ichthyology, which is now a part of the Institute of Zoology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences. Fishery and ichthyology research is carried out at the Institute of Zoology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (Bratislava), and universities, i.e., the Comenius University in Bratislava (Department of Zoology, Department of Ecology), the Slovak Agricultural University in Nitra (Department of Poultryscience and Small Animals Husbandry), the University of Presov in Presov (Department of Ecology) and the University of Veterinary Medicine in Kosice (Institute of Parasitology, Diseases of Fish, Bees and Game). Ichthyology research is also carried out by the Slovak National Museum. In addition to ichthyology research, the Slovak National Museum provides documentary evidence and preservation of ichthyofauna from the entire country (the ichthyologic collection currently contains above 100 thousand items). Fish farming and aquaculture research is carried out at the Research Institute of Animal Production at Nitra (workplaces Castá and Velcice). This institution works on some aquaculture projects, such as artificial rearing and genetic-morphological analyses of protected fish species - wild carp "sazan" in special conditions, artificial breeding of sterlet, hormone stimulation of sterlet reproduction, fish-stocking with artificially reared sterlet fingerling, artificial breeding of North African catfish, etc.
Education in aquaculture and fisheries is carried out by some institutions at different levels. Lower-level education in fisheries and aquaculture is carried out in the form of practical training at the Secondary Vocational School of Fishery and Agriculture at Príbovce, offering a three and half-year course in fish farming, and the Technical High School of Agriculture at Ivanka pri Dunaji, offering a four-year course in fisheries and fish farming.
Higher-level training in aquaculture and fisheries is carried out at some universities during their BSc degree programmes. Post-graduate training to MSc and PhD level is also offered. The Slovak Agricultural University in Nitra provides courses in aquaculture, ichthyology is lectured at the Comenius University in Bratislava and at Presov University in Presov, and farming and diseases of fish are lectured at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Kosice.
The social and political situation after 1989 led to changes in ownership patterns as well as the dissolution of the State Fishery. This resulted in the rapid decline of fish production in the 1990s. In the last five years annual fish production in Slovakia has been increasing. This is a positive sign of the transformation and restoration of the sector. In the last few years quite a number of small family farms were established, mainly focused on salmonids farming. Management of the large-scale fish farms has continued to be done by the same people as before 1989. However, some ponds are managed by people who acquired them without previous experience and/or education in fish farming, and this has resulted in a decrease in fish production.
A limiting factor to fish farming is the clash of interests between nature protection and fish farming. Fish farming ponds are attractive wetland ecosystems where there are protected plants and animals. The State institution for nature and land protection, as well as NGOs (non-governmental organizations), limit fish farming in order to protect aquatic birds. However loses incurred by fish farmers are not fully compensated. In this connection, the implementation of European legislation (directive on protected bird areas, biotopes - Natura 2000 - and water - integrated watershed management) is a new risk for the development of aquaculture. The main problems which will need solutions are:
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