Replaced by: French version (2015)
Tunisia, occupying a central place in the Mediterranean, opens up widely onto the sea, mainly on its eastern and southern shores. It has more than 1 300 km of coastline, and covers an area of 163 610 km, and a population in excess of 10 million.
Fisheries and aquaculture play an important role in socio-economic terms and as a source of food. Fisheries production, which had never ceased to increase year on year, reached 102 tonnes in 1988, declined in the 1990s, and then slowly recovered to return to the same production level of 102 tonnes in 2004. It was not until the last two years that the annual fisheries catch reached 110 tonnes.
Annual per capita consumption followed the same trend (from 13.5 kg in 1988 it fell to 8.5 in 1990, rising again in recent years to 9.5 kg) with a very skewed regional breakdown, due to the fact that annual per capita consumption in the interior regions is below 1.5 kg.
Fisheries contribute about 9 percent to the value of agriculture, which itself accounts for 12.5 percent of GDP. Fisheries contribute about 1.4 percent to GNP.
Aquaculture in Tunisia is not developing at the pace expected by the public authorities, despite the substantial potential that has been identified (20 000 tonnes/year). Current production levels are about 3 700 tonnes, accounting for almost 3 percent of Tunisia's total fish production. The value of aquaculture exports was around 29 million Tunisian dinars (DT) in 2005 (equivalent to just under 22.3 million US$). Today, over 1 000 people are directly and permanently employed in aquaculture.
The first aquaculture trials in Tunisia began in the 1960s when a shellfish farm was set up on Lake Bizerte (in the north of the country) by the National Fisheries Office (Office National des Pêches).
These trials were followed up by scientific experiments and the establishment of two experimental stations (freshwater fish raising unit in southern Tunisia in 1974, and marine fish breeding in northern Tunisia in 1975) and then in 1985, the establishment of the National Aquaculture Centre (Centre National d'Aquaculture) at Monastir in the eastern-central part of the country.
The latter Centre was established to manage the breeding and raising of marine fish (European seabass and gilthead seabream) and to provide assistance to private producers.
It was not until 1985 that the first industrial operations began in this field, with the establishment of three private industrial fish farms in southern Tunisia.
But after this, investment in this sector failed to increase as had been hoped despite the actions taken by the government to foster the development of the aquaculture sector.
At the present time, there are around 13 aquaculture projects in production, in addition to the aquaculture farming of 23 inland water bodies by private fishers in the interior areas of the country.
Total aquaculture production rose from 140 tonnes in 1987 to 3 700 tonnes in 2004 which was about 3 percent of the total output of the fisheries sector, varying in value from between 1 million Tunisian dinars in 1987 to 43 million dinars (33.07 million US$) in 2005.
About 1 000 people are directly and permanently employed in aquaculture.
Both marine and inland species are currently being farmed. The main marine aquaculture production zone is in the Governorate of Sousse (in the east of the country, producing about 900 tonnes of seabream in 2004). A secondary marine aquaculture production zone is in the south of Tunisia (Gouvernorate of Médenine) where an average of 150 tonnes of European seabass and gilthead seabream are produced.
Most of the shellfish production (Mediterranean mussel, Mytilus galloprovincialis and the Pacific cupped oyster, Crassostrea gigas) comes from northern Tunisia, and mainly from the Governorate of Bizerte, with production and varying widely from one year to the next. Over the past 10 years average production has been around 100 tonnes.
Inland aquaculture is mainly practised in the Governorate of Béjà, about 100 km to the west of Tunis, producing an annual average of 500 tonnes of freshwater fish (Liza ramado, Cyprinus carpio, Stizostedion lucioperca) and flathead grey mullet (Mugil cephalus).
The most important species in terms of farming value are basically the European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and the gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) alongside Northern bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) produced by fattening fish taken from the wild.
Most of the production comprises native species.
Some species have also been introduced into Tunisia, above all freshwater species such as the zander (Stizostedion lucioperca), largemouth black-bass (Micropterus salmoides), Chinese carp (grass carp, Ctenopharyngodon idellus; silver carp, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix and bighead carp, Aristichthys nobilis) and Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus).
In the shellfish culture sector, the Pacific cupped oyster (Crassostrea gigas) was introduced into Tunisia in the 1970s.
Marine aquaculture is practised using intensive techniques; the bulk of production comes from concrete raceway farms with a density of 60 kg/m3 using pure oxygen. But poor production levels have been recorded using other farming techniques in circular cages installed in the sheltered areas at sea.
Inland aquaculture in Tunisia consists of farming and improving dam water bodies by stocking them with mullet alevins (Mugil spp., Liza sp.) and transferring such species as pike-perch and carp, which will subsequently be finished under permits issued to fishers living around these dams.
Mediterranean mussel (Mitilus galloprovincialis) and Pacific cupped oyster (Crassostrea gigas) are farmed, using breeding tables or floating lines to which they are suspended. These two culture techniques are practised in the Bizerte Lagoon in the north of the country. This is a seawater lagoon, opening up to the sea.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Tunisia according to FAO statistics:
Tunisia's aquaculture products are sold on the local market and on the international market.
Farmed marine fish, European seabass and gilthead seabream used to be exported entirely to the European market. But over the past few years there has been fierce competition with other farmed products on this market. Consequently, the aquaculture producers have been looking to other potential markets, such as America. Parallel to this European market, Tunisian aquaculture products are sold to hotels and large tourist restaurants in Tunisia. The rest, estimated at about one-half of total catches, is sold on the wholesale market in Tunis, Sousse and Sfax. This fish is then transported to the retail markets in the towns and villages under statutory health and hygiene conditions. It should be pointed out that the selling price for this fish is more beneficial to the producers on the Tunisian market than on the European market. The average selling price of European seabass and gilthead seabream is about 9 Tunisian dinars, whereas the same product on the European market sells for around 6 Tunisian dinars (US$4.6 in 2004).
Virtually all the fattened bluefin tuna is exported directly to the Japanese market, with a small quantity to the European market.
Shellfish (mussels and oysters) is sold entirely on the local market with a white label after purging in the licensed purging centres according to current legislation and European directives. The farm-gate selling price of mussels is DT 2.5 but DT 3.5 on the wholesale market.
Freshwater fish is currently being sold entirely on the local market, mainly on the wholesale markets in such large towns as Tunis, Sousse and Sfax or on the markets of small towns and villages close to the dam lakes. There is no special demand for this type of product, except in the off-season for marine fish, when there is a demand for mullet or pike-perch which are also popular. Freshwater fish selling prices are quite low compared with marine fish. Prices vary from DT 1/kg for common carp, or US$0.770, to DT 2.5/kg for pike-perch, or US$1.9 and DT 3.5/kg for mullet, or US$2.7.
The ministry responsible for aquaculture is the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, through the Secretary of State for Fisheries, and the Directorate-General for Fisheries and Aquaculture (Direction Générale de la Pêche et de l'Aquaculture - DG/Pêche).
The functions of the Directorate-General for Fisheries and Aquaculture
It is responsible for aquaculture development. Health monitoring and control is the responsibility of the Directorate-General for Veterinary Services, under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, while monitoring the environmental impact of aquaculture projects and environmental protection is the responsibility of the National Agency for Environmental Protection (Agence Nationale de Protection de l'Environnement – ANPE).
Some of these functions are nevertheless exercised in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, namely:
With the agreement of this Commission, the Fisheries Directorate-General submits the applications to the Ministry for the Public Domain and Land Tenure Affairs (Ministère du Domaine Public et des Affaires Foncières) which is responsible for issuing the permits.
The organisation of the Fisheries Directorate-General for Aquaculture Administration and Development (DG/Pêche pour l'Administration et le développement de l'Aquaculture)
Aquaculture is administered within the Fisheries Directorate-General by the Aquaculture Sub-Directorate (Sous Direction de l'Aquaculture). But other DG/Pêche units are also responsible for matters linked to the management of aquaculture, namely:
The organisation of the Interprofessional Group of Fisheries Products – GIPP (Groupement Interprofessionnel des Produits de la Pêche). Under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, GIPP has financial autonomy and takes part in the development of aquaculture through aquaculture development projects, fostering exports, etc.
At the regional level, the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources is represented in the exercise of all its prerogatives by the Regional Agricultural Development Commissariats, which rank as Directorates-General.
The Act of 31 January 1994 is the aquaculture framework law.
Its scope is very wide-ranging because it encompasses every activity relating not only to capturing, but also collecting, extracting or raising organisms for which water is their permanent or predominant life environment.
Under this Act, aquaculture installations are grouped together under the heading of “Fixed Fisheries”, which the law has defined as water bodies in the public domain on which installations, equipment and other facilities to be used for fisheries and aquaculture have been established.
Regulation of licenses/permits
Article 23 of the 1994 Act requires a licence or permit to be issued prior to the establishment of “Fixed Fisheries” or fish farms.
Joint orders are issued by the Ministry of the State Domain, and the Ministries of Finance, Civil Works and Habitat and the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources setting the fees levied for exploiting the public domain.
Environmental Impact Regulation
There are several legislative texts and regulations indirectly governing marine based aquaculture regions:
Health Regulations regarding Production and Marketing
National Aquaculture Legislation Overview - Tunisia
Experimental aquaculture research is conducted by several institutions: "Institut National des Sciences et Technologie de la Mer" with its annexes and higher education and research institutions.
Priority research programmes are identified as a result of discussions jointly with the Ministry for Research and Technology, Professions and Administration (Ministère de la Recherche et des technologies).
Aquaculture training/education is designed within the framework of fisheries education, and organised on the basis of a traditional curriculum, provided at three levels:
Over the last decade, aquaculture has evolved to a certain extent through the implementation of projects to breed species other than those bred in the previous decade, in order to diversify aquaculture products and weaken crucial competition for species such as the European seabass and the gilthead seabream on the European market.
It was in this connection that four shellfish farming projects were established in the Bizerte Lagoon to the north of Pats, and four other bluefin tuna fish fattening projects on the east coast: two of them in the Sousse Governorate, and two others in the Mahdia Governorate. Another fish farm has just been opened to breed Nile tilapia in Southern Tunisia.
Only two species of fish were farmed in the past – European seabass and gilthead seabream – but during the last decade, freshwater fish species (42 percent), shell-fish (5 percent), bluefin tuna (16 percent) and marine fishes (37 percent) have also been farmed.
During the last decade, the government has also provided development support of which the main actions have been:
Annuaires statistiques de la Direction Générale de la pêche et de l'aquaculture.
Rapport internes de la Direction générales relatifs au Développement de l'aquaculture en Tunisie (années 2003, 2004 et 2005).
Organisation du ministère de l'Agriculture (décret n°2001-421 du 13 Février 2001).