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Part I Overview and main indicators

  1. Country brief
  2. General geographic and economic indicators
  3. FAO Fisheries statistics

Part II Narrative (2014)

  1. Production sector
    • Marine sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
      • Management applied to main fisheries
    • Inland sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
    • Aquaculture sub-sector - NASO
    • Recreational sub-sector
  2. Post-harvest sector
    • Fish utilization
    • Fish markets
  3. Trends, issues and development
    • Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies
    • Research, education and training
      • Research
  4. Institutional framework
  5. References

Additional information

  1. FAO Thematic data bases
  2. Publications
  3. Meetings & News archive

Part I Overview and main indicators

Part I of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile is compiled using the most up-to-date information available from the FAO Country briefs and Statistics programmes at the time of publication. The Country Brief and the FAO Fisheries Statistics provided in Part I may, however, have been prepared at different times, which would explain any inconsistencies.

Country brief

Prepared: March 2015

The fisheries and aquaculture sectors occupy a relatively marginal position in the Italian economy corresponding to less than 0.1 percent of the Italian GDP and 5.7 percent of Agricultural Value Added in 2010. The marine fishery is a multigear, multispecies fishery, with a highly heterogeneous fleet widely dispersed along the coast. In 2012, the fleet consisted of 12 783 vessels divided by fishing system; 69 percent of the fleet is composed of small fishing boats of less than 12 m in length. Longliners and other liners accounted for 37 percent of the fleet, followed by trawlers (23 percent), gill netters, purse seiners and hydraulic dredges. A total of 27 800 people were directly employed in fishery and aquaculture in 2012. The small-scale fisheries represented the most important segment from the social and employment point of view. Comparison of 2004‒2010 data shows that the socio-economic impact related to the reduction of fishing effort was significant.

Total production of the fishery sector in 2013 was about 340 000 tonnes, with a value of about EUR 1 760 million in 2011 (IREPA, 2012). The European Union (EU) capacity control policy led to a significant reduction in the Italian fleet capacity in recent years, with a consequent decrease of marine catches by about 44 percent between 2006 and 2013. In the same period, the balance deficit of fish trade increased due to less internal production, reduced exports and a strong increase in imports. In 2013, imports of fish and fishery products were valued at USD 5.8 billion, while exports were of only USD 760 million. The annual per capita consumption for fish was estimated by FAO at about 26.8 kg in 2011.

The aquaculture sector in Italy comprises both marine and freshwater farming. Freshwater aquaculture mainly consists of trout farmed in raceways, while marine aquaculture includes both shellfish, such as mussels and clams, as well as finfish in marine cages. The current trend in Italian aquaculture development is the increasing production of marine species, both mollusks and finfish. Growth in aquaculture production is mainly due to the mastering of seed production techniques for European seabass and the gilthead seabream and to the application of new farming technologies. Italy is among the main aquaculture producing countries of the EU, after Spain and France. Currently, aquaculture contributes about 48 percent of the total national fish production; in 2013, the total national aquaculture production was estimated at 162 600 tonnes, composed of 38 800 tonnes (24 percent) produced in freshwater and 123 800 tonnes (76 percent) in marine and brackish waters. Mariculture consists of finfish (11 percent) and mollusks (89 percent). The farming of mollusks is based heavily on the Mediterranean mussel, the Japanese carpet shell and grooved carpet shell.

Italian fisheries policy is based on four large pillars: management of fishery resources, structural policy, the common organization of markets and international agreements. The fishery policy is implemented through the Directorate General for Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies (MIPAAF) and by the Directorate for Fisheries of the regional administrations, with the support of services provided by decentralized offices (Marine Coastal Guard).

The particularly unfavourable Italian domestic economy has determined a generalized reduction in food consumption which has also affected fish products. The current high fishing effort along with elevated production costs, due to the increasing fuel prices, and strong EU regulatory pressure have lead the fishery sector to a period of stagnation.

The aquaculture sector faces several problems including, amongst others, the intense competition that the Italian producers of seabass and seabream face from producers in other countries such as Greece and, to some extent, Turkey. Increasing market competition with low priced products produced in developing countries is another emerging issue. For aquaculture farmers or potential farmers there is no one-stop shop where they can submit their applications to obtain the permission to initiate aquaculture activities. Another constraint is the lack of a close relationship with the public research sector, which plays a highly important role in terms of innovation.
General geographic and economic indicators

Table 1 - Italy -General Geographic and Economic Data

Marine water area 538973 Km2 *
Shelf area (to 200 mt): 201 310 Km2**
Length of continental coastline: 7 456 Km2**
Population (1/1/2013) 59 685 227**
GDP at purchaser's value (2012): (EUR/USD=1.2932) USD 2 013 billion**
GDP per capita (2012): USD 33 048**
Agricultural GDP (2011): (EUR/USD=1.3653) USD 36.6 billion**
Fisheries GDP (2011): USD 1.95 billion**
Sources:*http://www.marineregions.org/eezdetails.php?eez_id=184 **EU. 2014. Facts and Figures on the Common Fisheries Policy. Basic statistical data. 2014 edition. Luxembourg

Key statistics

Country area301 340km2FAOSTAT. Expert sources from FAO (including other divisions), 2013
Land area294 140km2FAOSTAT. Expert sources from FAO (including other divisions), 2013
Inland water area7 200km2Computed. Calculated, 2013
Population - Est. & Proj.61.316millionsFAOSTAT. Official data, 2018
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area536 134km2VLIZ

Source: FAO Country Profile

FAO Fisheries statistics

Updated 2014Part II Narrative

Part II of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile provides supplementary information that is based on national and other sources and that is valid at the time of compilation (see update year above). References to these sources are provided as far as possible.

Production sectorMarine sub-sectorCatch profileIn the last decade national fishery production has shown a negative trend which also continued in more recent years. In 2004, total marine capture fisheries totaled 288 284 tonnes, while in 2012 they only reached 195 thousand tonnes. The value of production in 2012 generated USD 1.2 billion, while in 2004 the same figure was USD 1.8 billion.

Table 3 – Italy - Total landings in volume and value, average values by vessel and day at sea

2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Landings (000 t) 288 268 285 267 216 234 223 210 195
Landings (bln USD) 1.78 1.79 1.93 1.72 1.39 1.52 1.42 1.40 1.19
Yearly landings in volume by vessel (t) 18.5 17.8 19.9 19.4 16.1 17.5 16.8 16 15.2

Landings in volume

by day at sea (kg) by vessel

130 136 144 147 136 131 133 120 125
Yearly landings in value by vessel (000 USD) 114 119 135 125 103 114 107 106 92
Landings in value by day at sea (USD) by vessel 808 887 974 954 881 856 855 806 768
Source: Mpaaf-Irepa

The figures reported in the table clearly show that the reduction in fleet capacity is only one of many other factors affecting the fall in total captures and productivity: state of the stocks, changes in fishing zones due to increased production costs, different composition of the catch all contributed to the result. Moreover, the new restrictions imposed by the Mediterranean Regulation (Reg. (CE) 1967/2006) also had a direct effect on production: larger mesh size, distance from the coast, minimum size of several species, de facto closure of quite a number of traditional small-scale fisheries, induced modifications in fishing activities also contributed to reducing internal production. Finally, new control regulations and sanctions approved by the European Council (Reg (CE) 1224/2009)), which cover all operations from capture to sales, induced changes in fishing operations, including the traditional ones.

From the previous figures it clearly emerges that one of the most relevant variation determined by the different conditions faced by the fishing industry in recent years is the progressive loss of productivity, both in unit and daily terms; the average catch per vessel, as well as returns, fell continuously and noticeably, even in cases where the level of activity was increased.

As for fishing gear, the most significant decline has been registered by the most important segments. In the period 2004/2012, bottom trawler, purse seiners and small-scale fisheries production declined by 36 percent, 37 percent and 35 percent respectively. Mid-water pair trawlers and dredge landings fluctuated around 40 000 tonnes and 23 000 tonnes respectively. In both cases market demand heavily influences the level of production.

Table 4 – Italy - Total landings in volume by gear – years 2004 – 2012 (000 tonnes)

Fleet segment 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Bottom Trawl 101.9 99.9 100.9 92.7 80 697 85.2 78.2 71.9 65.0
Mid-water pair trawl 43.7 43.6 47.5 46.8 35.3 38.6 44.4 34.2 42.1
Purse seine 47.5 39.2 53.6 40.8 29.6 38.1 31.5 32.3 27.2
Dredge 23.4 17.8 21.1 30.8 26.8 19.6 21.8 21.8 21.9
Small scale fishery 47.5 48.9 45.3 42.7 32.8 38.4 33.6 36.6 31.0
Polyvalent 10.4 8.9 2.4 0.7 0.5 - - - -
Passive polyvalent 4.5 - 4.8 4.9 5.3 9.5 8.4 8.1 4.7
Longlines 9.9 10.0 10.1 7.7 5.6 4.5 5.1 5.2 3.7
Total 288.3 268.3 285.8 267.4 216.6 234.1 223.0 210.3 195.8
Source: Mpaaf-Irepa

A geographic analysis highlights how the fall in productivity is common throughout all fishing areas, even if at a different rate. The largest decline in catches refers to the Adriatic coast: Puglia, Emilia Romagna, Veneto have been mostly affected by the fall in production. Sicily also shows an important reduction, mainly due to the recent scrapping of the large trawlers fishing capacity in the Channel.

Table 5 – Italy - Total landings in volume by administrative region, years 2004-2012 (000 tonnes)

2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Liguria 5.7 5.4 4.9 5.0 3.8 4.2 3.7 4.4 3.4
Toscana 9.5 8.5 11.1 10.2 6.2 10.7 10.6 9.0 8.1
Lazio 6.8 7.5 6.9 5.8 4.9 5.7 5.4 5.7 5.0
Campania 18.2 14.9 17.3 14.4 11.3 14.1 14.1 14.1 12.2
Calabria 11.2 11.0 12.2 10.5 8.8 11.7 9.2 10.0 8.8
Puglia 50.4 42.4 47.8 39.1 35.5 37.9 34.8 32.3 25.2
Molise - 1.5 1.2 1.7 2.1 1.8 2.1 2.2 1.7
Abruzzo 19.6 15.6 22.41 14.6 12.06 12.9 10.94 11.4 12.2
Marche 28.7 25.2 27.7 34.3 30.8 4.9 29.6 25.3 24.9
Emilia Romagna 31.1 29.8 27.5 29.9 23.7 22.2 22.1 17.6 23.1
Veneto 30.3 31.1 27.1 32.3 21.6 25.0 23.4 19.6 22.2
Friuli V. G. 7.5 6.8 6.2 6.4 5.0 4.7 3.7 3.6 4.0
Sardegna 8.4 12.2 11.1 10.9 7.5 8.2 8.0 9.6 7.8
Sicilia 60.2 56.2 62.0 52.1 43.3 49.7 45.0 45.1 36.8
Total 288.3 268.3 285.8 267.4 216.5 234.1 223.0 210.3 195.8
Source: Mpaaf-Irepa

In 2012, a significant proportion of total annual Italian landing (67.4 percent) came from the following regions: Sicily (18.8 percent), Apulia (12.8 percent), Marche (12.7 percent), Emilia Romagna (11.8 percent) and Veneto (11.3 percent). The whole Tyrrhenian area yielded about 23 percent of annual landings. Bottom trawling accounted for 40.7 percent of the total landings, followed by midwater pair trawl (20.2 percent) and small-scale fishery (15.8 percent).

Table 6 – Italy - Total landings in volume by fleet segment and administrative region, 2012 (tonnes)

Trawl Pair trawl Seine Hydraulic Dredge Small scale Passive polyvalent Long line Total
Liguria 771 1 859 617 184 3 431
Tuscany 2 449 4 343 1 094 203 8 088
Lazio 3 208 600 241 747 245 5 042
Campania 3 543 5 251 258 2 980 227 12 258
Calabria 4 550 339 3 284 605 8 777
Apulia 12 059 6 230 1 729 924 3 422 403 400 25 167
Molise 1 349 237 182 1 767
Abruzzo 3 140 3 583 4 821 704 12 247
Marche 5 892 9 282 6 654 3 119 24 948
Emilia Romagna 4 326 13 759 3 407 1 639 11 23 140
Veneto 4 096 12 274 4 935 948 22 253
Friuli V G 1 033 591 422 496 1 498 4 039
Sardinia 2 437 4 131 1 254 7 822
Sicily 16 159 9 115 6 691 1 613 3 279 36 857
Total 65 011 42 135 27 242 21 973 31 056 4 743 3 678 195 839
Fonte: Mpaaf-Irepa
Source: Mpaaf-Irepa
Landing sitesLanding sites are fragmented and widespread along the coast. According to the operational program of the EFF, of a total of 800 landing sites, 75 percent are simple mooring sites, such as natural shelter, beaches and small docks used by artisanal vessels; the rest are harbors of different dimensions where fishing vessels usually coexist with other types of boats, leisure boats in particular. The main fishing harbors in terms of volume landed are Mazara del Vallo (SW Sicily), Manfredonia and Molfetta in South Adriatic, Chioggia and Porto Garibaldi, (N Adriatic), Ancona and Fano (Central Adriatic), Porticello (SW Tyrrhenian Sea), Trapani (West Tyrrhenian Sea).

Table 7 – Italy - Main technical parameters of the national fleet and employment by administrative region, 2012.

Regions N. of vessels Gross tonnage (GT) Engine power (kW)

Crew* (n)

Liguria 525 3 503 33 114 849
Tuscany 600 5 531 42 706 1 053
Lazio 582 7 293 53 725 982
Campania 1124 9 482 65 575 2 387
Calabria 854 5 478 44 196 2 474
Apulia 1572 19 286 131 639 3 653
Molise 91 2 570 10 667 220
Abruzzo 547 9 850 46 881 1 184
Marche 855 17 564 91 547 1 827
Emilia Romagna 714 8 951 72 541 1 501
Veneto 712 11 771 80 866 1 644
Friuli V G 400 1 949 26 889 733
Sardinia 1292 9 718 78 037 2 354
Sicily 2946 49 277 241 529 7 357
Total 12 814 158 630 1 008 682 28 217

Fishing practices/systemsAccording to the Italian provisions the fishing fleet is divided into coastal, Mediterranean and Overseas vessels (which fish beyond the Mediterranean Straits). In general, however, small-scale or artisanal fishing refers to fishing boats with less than 12 meter in length, using passive gears, involving day trips with a minimal crew (one or two fishermen). The gears most commonly used are:
  • surrounding nets: purse seines are those best known and most widely used, even for vessels of considerable size. Depending on the dimension, these nets are used for both small pelagic fish, almost always by attracting the fish with a light source (hence the term lampare), and for catching large pelagic fish, particularly tuna, in which case they are known as tuna seines;
  • bottom trawl nets of different dimension are largely used all over the Italian coast;
  • midwater trawlers (volanti), used for the catch of small pelagics, are mainly used along the Adriatic fishing grounds;
  • dredge; the best known and most widely used dredge is the hydraulic dredge, in Italy it is called turbosoffiante and is exclusively used to catch bivalve mollusks;
  • trammel nets, traps and longlines used by the small-scale fisheries fleet segment. They allow limited catches, but mainly of valuable fish.
  • drifting long lines are also widely used today to catch large-pelagic fish, particularly bluefin tuna, swordfish and albacore.
Technical restrictions apply to each gear in terms of mesh size, net and line length, number of hooks or traps.
Main resourcesThe main species groups are the small pelagics – anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus) and sardine (Sardina pilchardus). Among demersal fish, the most abundant species landed are hake (Merluccius merluccius) and red mullet (Mullus barbatus). An important portion of total Italian landings is cephalopods, comprising cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis), octopus (Octopus vulgaris), and horned octopus (Eledone cirrhosa). The deepwater rose shrimp (Parapenaeus longirostris) and the spottail mantis shrimp (Squilla mantis) are the most important crustaceans landed. Among large pelagics, the main species landed are bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus), albacore (Thunnus alalunga) and swordfish (Xiphias gladius). Hydraulic dredgers production, which concerns mainly clam (Chamelea gallina), comes mostly from the northern Adriatic.

Anchovy, clams and sardines are the three main species landed by the Italian fleet. In 2012, anchovy production totaled 42 800 tons (22 percent of domestic landings), clams and sardines production result in a stable production around 20 000 tonnes, or 10 percent of the total Italian landings. Hake and shrimp were the next most landed species, with 9 393 and 10 600 tons respectively (4.7 percent and 5.4 percent of total landings). While anchovy and sardines catch are rather stable over time and follow the natural fluctuations, hake landings are slowly but steadily decreasing. In spite of its decline, hake is still the most valuable species: with 86.1 million EUR, it accounts for 7.9 percent of the total value of domestic landings. Clam harvest follows a fairly regular cycle, but the production in this case is largely dependent on the market demand.

The catch composition of Italian marine fisheries is extremely heterogeneous, reflecting both the different gear in use in various fishing grounds and the high biodiversity of aquatic resources. The first five species account for 51 percent of the total, while the values of the remaining 130 species usually landed is rather marginal.

Table 8 – Italy - Main species, in quantity and percentage on the total, 2012

Species Percentage (%) Quantity (t)
Anchovy 21.9 42 800
Sardine 10.2 20 028
Clam 10.2 19 947
Hake 4.8 9 393
Deep-water rose shrimp 4.2 8 267
Source: Mpaaf-Irepa

Status of fish stocks

In the Mediterranean and Black Sea, the Management advisory body is the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM). The SAC is organized into Sub-Committees. The Sub-Committee on Stock Assessment (SCSA) gives advice on stock status.

Biological indicators of the most important commercial species are available at GSA level (Geographical sub areas), which - as recommended by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM, Alicante 2001) and its Scientific Committee – represents the best combination of areas, fishing methods and resources in their variable relations. Today this advice is produced together with the Sub Group on Mediterranean (SGMED) which has been created within the Scientific, Technical, Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) of the European Union.

The assessments produced by STECF-SGMED and SCSA-GFCM on Mediterranean stocks have shown a status of overexploitation for most of the demersal species landed by the Italian fleet.

Given the values of the proposed management reference point (Fmsy) and the exploitation rates (E), most of the analytically assessed and reviewed stocks in the Mediterranean are classified as being subject to overfishing. Norway lobster in GSA 16, and deep-water rose shrimp in GSA 9, are the only two stocks that could be considered as exploited at a sustainable level.

Also for pelagic fisheries, both European anchovy and sardine can be considered in a status of overexploitation in most of the GSAs considered. Only in the Strait of Sicily (GSA 16), the analysis carried out on the stock of sardine reported the species as exploited at a sustainable level. The following table summarizes the findings in detail for the various stocks (species by Geographical Sub-Areas).

Table 9 – Italy – Status of fish stocks

Species GSA F current F msy Status Source Period
Aristaeomorpha foliacea 9 0.62 0.36 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Aristeus antennatus 9 0.62 0.32 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Engraulis encrasicolus 9 1 0.4 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Galeus melastomus 9 0.35 0.13 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Merluccius merluccius 9 0.4 0.2 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Micromesistius poutassou 9 1.12 0.53 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Mullus barbatus 9 0.68 0.61 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Mullus surmuletus 9 0.56 0.31 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Nephrops norvegicus 9 0.34 0.21 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Pagellus erythrinus 9 0.63 0.48 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Parapenaeus longirostris 9 0.29 0.7 Sustainably fished EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Phycis blennoides 9 1.01 0.2 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Raja asterias 9 0.49 0.29 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2012
Raja clavata 9 0.33 0.08 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2012
Sardina pilcardus 9 0.41 0.4 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Scyliorhinus canicula 9 0.33 0.13 Overfishing GFCM 1994-2010
Squilla mantis 9 1.24 0.54 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Trisopterus minutus 9 0.9 0.74 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Aristaeomorpha foliacea 10 1 0.3 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2013
Aristeus antennatus 10 0.51 0.31 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2013
Merluccius merluccius 10 1 0.14 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Mullus barbatus 10 1.01 0.41 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010
Parapenaeus longirostris 10 1.24 0.93 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2013
Squilla mantis 10 1.08 0.41 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2012
Aristaeomorpha foliacea 11 0.98 0.49 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Merluccius merluccius 11 2.5 0.25 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Mullus barbatus 11 2.5 0.29 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Parapenaeus longirostris 11 0.69 0.49 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Aristaeomorpha foliacea 16 1.67 0.3 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2013
Aristeus antennatus 16 0.81 0.26 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2013
Engraulis encrasicolus 16 0.5 0.4 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Lophius budegassa 16 0.3 0.16 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Merluccius merluccius 16 1.12 0.15 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2013
Mullus barbatus 16 1.3 0.45 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Nephrops norvegicus 16 0.15 0.2 Sustainably fished EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Parapenaeus longirostris 16 1.6 1.22 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2013
Raja clavata 16 0.16 0.1 Overexploited EWG-STECF 2012
Sardina pilcardus 16 0.17 0.4 Sustainably fished EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Engraulis encrasicolus 17 0.47 0.4 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Merluccius merluccius 17 1.48-2.01 0.21 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2013
Mullus barbatus 17 0.71 0.36 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Sardina pilcardus 17 0.57 0.4 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Solea vulgaris 17 0.93 0.31 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2013
Squilla mantis 17 0.93-1 0.5 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2013
Aristaeomorpha foliacea 18 1 0.3 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2013
Merluccius merluccius 18 1.09 0.19 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-202
Mullus barbatus 18 1.5 0.5 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Nephrops norvegicus 18 0.54 0.3 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Parapenaeus longirostris 18 1.45 0.68 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Squilla mantis 18 1.04 0.27 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Merluccius merluccius 19 1.21 0.22 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2013
Mullus barbatus 19 1.94 0.3 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2010-2012
Parapenaeus longirostris 19 1.31 0.67 Overfishing EWG-STECF 2013
Source: STECF (2013), (2014), GFCM-SAC (2014)
Management applied to main fisheriesEuropean regulation Reg. (CE) 1967/06 is the legal basis for most regulations currently in force in the Mediterranean area for EU countries. Its most relevant features concern the introduction of technical measures specific for the EU Mediterranean fisheries and the introduction of two new management tools: national and community management fishery plans (NMFPs and CMFPs).

Some aspects of this regulation are still under scrutiny by the Italian government since they require some further adjustment. The main concern regards the spatial scope of the national fishery management plans that apply exclusively to territorial waters, while the Italian fleet fish inside and outside territorial waters and, for geographic reasons, sometime compete with fleets of non-EU countries.

In this case, effectiveness of management measures limited by territorial waters may vary, depending on the area. For example, due to the limited continental platform, trawling in the Tyrrhenian Sea is mainly, but not exclusively, performed within territorial waters; in other areas like the Adriatic, where the platform extends to the whole area, trawling is carried out mostly in international waters.

Within EU Mediterranean countries, Italy has gained significant experience on the matter. The first NMFPs were implemented in 2008 and results have provided useful considerations for discussion.

Following the management plan approach the strategy implemented by the Italian government resulted in the adoption of:
  • eight national management plans for towed gears and eight for other gears targeting the same demersal and benthic species, including one specific plan for the offshore fleet in the Sicilian Channel;
  • six national plans managing seiners;
  • one national plan for beach seines and one for hydraulic dredges (Spagnolo, 2012b).
One of the main issues is the geographical scale of plans. While the EU Regulation considers territorial waters as a limit for management plans, trawlers operate in all fishing areas, including outside the territorial waters. A solution has been to use the GFCM Geographical Sub Areas (GSA) as the more appropriate area for each management plan. In this respect, a specific plan was also drawn for the largest fleet, the trawlers targeting resources in the Strait of Sicily, i.e. in international waters. The same applies to seiners, which operate in six out of seven GSAs located in front of the Italian coasts; purse seiners in the Adriatic Sea usually fish in international waters. The use of GSAs division in national plans has proven to be more realistic and has been used as a tool to identify the combination of fishing ground/fleets/biological resources each plan has to deal with, independently of territorial and international waters.

At the same time, by adopting the plans, the principle of exclusivity was introduced, given that the regulation provides that a specific fishing permit is granted to fishermen registered within the area delimitated by the plan, thus favouring those who are registered, or are traditionally fishing within the area of each plan.

The management approach adopted by the Italian Government through the NMFP’s complies with the objective of biological sustainability of resources through the quantitative definition of fishing effort compatible with the state of the stocks. It can be thus summarized:
  • the geographical scale adopted to define individual areas of each management plan were GSAs, as defined within GFCM, in order to reflect results of stock assessment provided by the GFCM Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). This also allowed to introduce territorial partitioning of the effort process, and the power of exclusion in the areas;
  • this kind of approach, as opposed to a single national plan, resulted in more effective measures based on the financial resources available in each area. This approach was also supported by the wealth of detailed scientific and economic information, most of which is presently recorded through the EU Data Collection Framework Regulation;
  • each management plan defines effort levels compatible with appropriate biological reference points for the main target species;
  • the most important measures are: permanent cessation, temporary withdrawal, restrictions to nursery and spawning zones, selectivity of nets; measures are imposed directly by the State;
  • each management plan comes with an ex-ante assessment of the impact of each measure on main stocks and fishermen income.
For the small-scale fisheries the Italian authority introduced territorial use rights for the management of mobile species. Procedures used to promote the management of coastal resources through the use of Territorial Use Rights in Fisheries (TURFs) were designed and directly involved fishermen. Regulation 1198/06 of the European Fishery Fund (EFF) provides within “collective actions” (art. 37, m), the possibility for a collective managed body, accounting for at least 70 percent of the enterprises registered in the area, to design a local management plan. Financial contributions are provided for the formulation of the plan, to be drawn in cooperation with a research institute, and the ensuing monitoring activity.

The main steps leading to the definition of local TURFs:

  • The local authority responsible for implementing the EFF launches a tender to draft a local management plan. Fishermen associations as promoters of a management consortium pull together and make sure that at least 70 percent of the local enterprises, as requested by the regulation, become members of a “collective management body” (CO.GE.PA.). The establishment of the Consortium coincides with the definition of the area and the selection of its members.
  • In cooperation with one or more research institute, the Consortium confers with its members to define objectives and regulations of the management plan to reduce fishing effort and rebuild biological resources of local interest. This is the most sensitive phase in the procedure, when the cohesion and motivation of the members are tested.
  • The local management plan, based on guidelines issued at central level, includes an analysis of critical issues in terms of biological, economic and social viability and proposes possible solutions as projects based on the implementation of measures provided in EFF Regulation. This plan takes priority in the allocation of funding requests in EFF tenders. This phase coincides with the definition of incentives targeted to members of the consortium.
  • A scientific committee nominated by the management authority evaluates the local management plan and, if approved, submits it to the Ministry for adoption.
  • The Ministry adopts the plan and its management regulations by issuing a Ministerial Decree. In this way, rules have the force of law and become valid “erga omnes”, therefore being monitored and enforced by police authorities.
  • Research institutes monitor the plan for three years, producing a yearly report on the advancement of activities and, where necessary, propose necessary adjustments jointly with the management.
The existence of a regulation does not guarantee its implementation. The various obstacles outlined before may represent a powerful limit to its successful execution. Protection and rebuilding of stocks, for instance, require the introduction of new and more restrictive measures like larger mesh size, depending on species and fishing period; prohibition of access in nursery areas; deeper depth limits and distance from the coast – all of which have a direct impact on fishermen income. This in particular represents another deterrent to the introduction of a new management plan which, as is the case with TURFs, is adopted on a voluntary basis (Spagnolo 2012a).

This is why a different type of incentives should support the effective implementation of new measures to compensate fishermen for lower incomes in the short run. The support strategy represents an important and unavoidable component of a Management Plan.

An example of this strategy is the process which took place in Sicily where ten consortia were established, each responsible for its own local management plan. The management plans were adopted through a ministerial decree and all together include 1 413 vessels, equivalent to: 78.6 percent of those registered in the relevant areas (n=1 820), 46.2 percent of the whole Sicilian fleet (n=3 098), 56.2 percent of the Sicilian fleet excluding trawlers (n=2 545).

Each plan, together with a scientific institute, was drawn by a fishermen consortium which approved regulations providing more efficient management of resources in the area. Participation of the fishermen themselves in this process was crucial, as they significantly contributed their traditional knowledge with researchers, in order to define the most efficient regulations to reduce fishing effort and rebuild fish stocks.

A right-based management through the local management plan approach requires time to consolidate and its success strongly depends on the cohesion and cooperation among fishermen, administration and research.
Inland sub-sectorInland professional fisheries have a long-standing tradition and catch originates from a number of gear types. At present, inland freshwater activities have a reduced importance and are marginal in the Italian fishing sector. These fisheries are managed at the local level, where the State is responsible for the general policy framework and the control of inland waters quality.

In particular, fishing periods and general fishing rules (minimum fish size, gear permitted, etc.) are set by regional laws, while at even more local level other administrations (Provincia) have the power to modify in a more restricted way the regional legislation. Fishing permits are issued by the Provinces. The latter also have competency for restocking procedures.

Italy has about 20 000 km² of lakes, reservoirs and rivers. In 2011, the recorded national output of freshwater fish was 4 000 tonnes. The number of authorized professional fishermen was about 1 000 in 2011.Catch profileThe catch comprises cyprinid fishes (about 20 percent), salmonids (10 percent), pikes and bass (5 percent), eels (3 percent), with the rest of the catch pooled in official statistics as “other fishes”.Landing sitesMain landing sites are located in the north-central region of the country: in Lombardia Region there is the highest production (34 percent), while Umbria, Lazio and Veneto account for 27 percent, 14 percent and 11 percent of national production respectively.

Table 10 – Italy – Landing sites

Areas Eco-systems Main Species targeted Fishing methods and gears Capture (tonnes)

No. of


No. of boats
Lake Maggiore Deep subalpine lake Whitefishes nei (Coregonus spp.), shads nei (Alosa spp.), roaches nei (Rutilus spp) From boats: gill nets and drift nets 160 32 32
Lake Lugano

Deep subalpine lake


Whitefishes nei (Coregonus spp.), perch (Perca fluviatilis), pike (Esox lucius), twaite shad (Alosa fallax lacustris) From boats: gill nets and drift nets 40 8 8
Lake Garda

Deep subalpine lake


Whitefishes nei (Coregonus spp.),

perch (Perca fluviatilis), twaite shad

(Alosa fallax lacustris)

From boats: gill nets and drift nets 47 47

Lake Trasimeno

Large, shallow lake Carps nei (Hypophthalmichthys spp.), perch (Perca fluviatilis), big-scale sand smelt (Atherina boyeri) From boats: Tofo (fixed gill net), Altana (drift net), Fila (Anguilla) 220 105 105
Source: UE Data Collection Framework 2006
Fishing practices/systemsThe inland fisheries fleet is composed of about 1 000 small boats (5-8 m and 25-40 HP) and the main gear types are gill nets, drift nets and trammel nets.Main resourcesThere is no stock assessment for principal stocks and resources exploited by the inland fisheries, which are stable except eel, which declined in recent years.
Aquaculture sub-sectorThe Italian aquaculture sector is composed of three important clusters:
  • Freshwater species
  • Salt water species
  • Shellfish
Of the three above clusters, the most significant in terms of total volume and value is the shellfish segment. In terms of volume the freshwater segment is the second one and salt water species is the third. In terms of value it is the marine species cluster which comes before the freshwater species. Most Italian fish farming production consists of freshwater species, particularly trout, catfish and sturgeon. In particular trout represents the most popularly reared species and makes Italy one of the major EC producers. In the brackish waters, the most important species are European seabass and seabream. Salt and brackishwater aquaculture also provides for the breeding of other minor species like white seabream (Diplodus sargus), shi drum (Umbrina cirrosa), and grey mullets (Mugilidae). Of relevant importance is the Italian production of mollusks, which usually are reared in off shore farms, fishing valleys and in a few cases in basins bordering on fish farms.

Currently, the aquaculture sector, after a phase of sharp increase in production between the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, is stabilizing. Competition has increased, and prices and margins have significantly diminished, therefore demanding additional efficiency in the productivity system and new technologies. Moreover, the sector suffers from additional costs associated with enforcement of environmental legislation that obliges fish farms to reduce their impact on the surrounding environment. In this respect, the lack of a specific aquaculture law governing the sector has proven a barrier to its development. Such a law would have the potential to improve the sector’s efficiency and reduce the current fragmentation of competencies among different public entities. If such a law were to come into being, it could contribute to renew the interest in the sector and new investments could be envisaged. As a matter of fact, in the period 2001/2011 Italian aquaculture went down by 37.2 percent and 19.3 percent in terms of volume and value respectively. By far, due to unfavourable environmental condition of water and temperature, the shellfish cluster shows the largest reduction, -41 percent in volume and -18 percent in value. Market competition is responsible for an analogous trend in the case of freshwater species, where a reduction of 36 percent and 37 percent in value and volume respectively.

In 2011, total aquaculture production was 164 128 tonnes, corresponding to USD 551 million (Facts and figures of the CFP, 2014). The shellfish segment accounted for around 70 percent of total national production in volume and around 46 percent in value. The sea fish production represented around 12 percent in volume and around 30 percent in value of the total aquaculture production. The freshwater sector was around 18 percent in volume and around 24 percent in value. The total number of people employed in aquaculture in 2011 was around 2 116 full time equivalent: the 65 percent of the workforce is employed in the shellfish segment, while 35 percent are employed in fish farms.

Table 11 – Italy - Aquaculture production and value by group of species – 2001-2011

Volume of production (1000 t)
Marine 20.719.7
Value of production (mln Euro)
Marine 113.6121.2
Sources: *P. Salz et al., 2009 ; **EU, 2014

In 2008, the number of aquaculture production units was 753 (UNIMAR, 2009). Around 60 percent of the sites are located in the northern regions, where inland and shellfish farming businesses are concentrated.

Figure 13 – Italy - Geographic distribution of aquaculture fish farms in Italy
Figure 13 – Italy - Geographic distribution of aquaculture fish farms in Italy
Source: Unimar, 2009

The productive structure

The main farming systems used in Italy are the following:
  • extensive farming of trout and carp in lagoons and ponds, enclosures and pens, recording a density of about 5 kilos per cubic meter;
  • semi-extensive farming of freshwater species in lagoons, ponds and tanks with higher level of production per cubic meter;
  • intensive farming of freshwater and marine species where the most widespread on-growing technology are cages for marine species and tanks for freshwater and salt water species;
  • shellfish culture which concerns mussels grown on-bottom and off-bottom.
At the moment the most significant production of salt water species is concentrated in few companies, that have different production sites - on-growing in tanks and in cages. Usually, production of seabream and seabass are integrated in the same farm, with a small percentage of new species.

The structure of the freshwater sector is characterized by micro and small companies, operated by few persons without structured organization. Only a small percentage of freshwater enterprises are limited companies. In these cases production is vertically integrated – from hatcheries until fattening phase. The freshwater segment is often made up of companies where the owner is also engaged in other activities.

The shellfish sector is composed of mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) and clams (Ruditapes philippinarum). While mussels are grown by cooperatives having a concession over the areas they use, clam is a cultured resource in a co-management regime. Each area is managed by a consortium, Consorzio per la Gestione delle Vongole (Clams) (CO.GE.VO), having de facto natural property rights over the area clams are grown. While European and national rules apply for technical aspects, as the dimension of each type of mollusk allowed to be taken, each Consortium decides on daily quotas for each vessel and each type of mollusk, fishing hours, period of catch, etc.
Recreational sub-sectorIn Italy, recreational fishery is regulated by the same rules that apply to sea fishing. The main provisions are the Law 963/1965 laying down the "Discipline of marine fisheries”, the regulations for its implementation, various ministerial decrees and the Mediterranean Regulation No 1967/2006. According to these provisions, recreational fisheries are all activities practised with a recreational or agonistic purpose. Sport fishers are only allowed to use fishing line and none of the other designated commercial fishing gears. There is also a daily 5 kg bag limit, with the harvesting of mussels for recreational purposes limited to 3 kg each day. Regulations such as respecting fishing periods and minimum size of the fish must be followed. Fish caught in recreational fisheries cannot be sold and fishing licences are not required.

Under the decentralization process concerning the transfer of administrative competencies from the central administration to regions, local authorities have begun to legislate in this matter, with a high level of diversification. In some cases regional laws have amended or supplemented the previous national rules through the introduction of more stringent rules. For instance in some regions although recreational fishing is not subject to a licensing system, fishers involved in such activities are required to be members of a national recreational fishing federation and to report catch data.

In accordance with article 27 of EC Regulation No 1224/2009 establishing a Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the common fisheries policy, the national authority recently launched a study for the rationalization of the sector with the objective of defining the dimension of the Italian recreational fishery. In March 2010, the Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Forestry has signed an agreement protocol with the Italian Fishing Federation (FIPSAS) aiming to set up a census of recreational fishermen and a comprehensive control system. No official data are available about recreational catches. From information on the number of permits issued, there are around 2 000 000 anglers in Italy. With Ministerial Decree of 6 December 2010, MIPAAF has established the obligation of notification for recreational and sport fishing activities. Such notification will be valid for three years and contains information about basic groupings (shore-based, boat-based and underwater), techniques used (nets, hooks, traps, pots, harpoons, spearguns, exc.), fishing areas.
Post-harvest sectorFish utilizationMost Italian catches are intended for human consumption. Nearly all catches from the Mediterranean are marketed fresh, sometimes chilled, whereas most catches from distant waters are frozen. Domestic fish supplies are supplemented by substantial imports of fresh and frozen products for direct human consumption. Substantial quantities of frozen products (mostly tuna) are imported as raw material for the processing industry. Considerable quantities of fishmeal are imported for animal feed. The processing industry has increased production since 2000, producing 100 000 tonnes in 2011, with a corresponding market value of EUR 600 million (ANCIT). The major processed products are tuna canned in oil (68 000 tonnes, representing 70 percent of total production); anchovies, both salted and as fillets in oil (20 500 tonnes); and shell clams (2 400 tonnes). Most raw material is imported, as little is available locally. Imports of processed products are increasing, whereas exports are decreasing. Aquaculture products are mostly sold fresh and whole, but some products are processed, such as trout, which are also sold filleted or smoked, and other minor products are processed by the fish farmer in order to add value to the product. Aquaculture products are largely used by the catering sector. Indeed, Italy has become the reference market in the Mediterranean for fresh products from seabass and seabream production. Fish marketsThe most important wholesale markets for fishery and aquaculture products in Italy coincide with the largest cities of the country: Milan, Rome, Turin, Naples, Palermo. Fresh fishery and aquaculture products are distributed by wholesale fish traders and only a minor part is sold directly by fishermen or farmers. At retail level aquaculture products are sold together with fishery products and this competition causes a downward effect on the prices of the latter. At wholesale level there is a limited overlap between products from aquaculture and fisheries, but prices, as the natural fishery production declines, are more and more interdependent. Although supermarkets and hypermarkets represent the largest share of retail sales, traditional channels such as fish mongers and municipal retail markets have resisted better in Italy than in most other European countries.
Trends, issues and developmentGovernment and non-government sector policies and development strategiesAs for the management of the fishing fleet the actual strategy based on national and local management plans in order to adjust fishing effort to the state of the stocks remains the priority of the Italian Government. In the case of the small-scale fisheries a local management plan is the more appropriate tool, while in the case of larger vessels, either trawlers or other gears, the existing national management plans, as defined by Art. 19 of Reg. (CE) 1967/06, will be updated and based on the most recent stock assessment. In the case of Adriatic fisheries, in particular pelagic fisheries, which are shared with other EU or Candidate Member States, the introduction of Community management plans as per Art. 18 of Reg. (CE) 1967/06, is also expected.

A specific action is also expected in order to:
  • improve health, security and hygiene on board of vessels, as well as the quality of the fish landed;
  • increase the efficiency of engine on board and reduce fuel consumption;
  • improve the enforcement of Reg. (CE) 1224/09 establishing a Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy.
Aquaculture will also be part of the national strategy aiming to increase the national fish production. An aquaculture strategic plan has been drawn according to the new European structural policy and priority is given to the improvement of quality, species diversification and marketing.
Research, education and trainingResearchMost basic fisheries and aquaculture research is undertaken by: university laboratories; other public institutes (including the National Research Council (CNR – Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche);ISPRA (Institute for Environmental Protection and Research) carry out research on applied aspects and organize data collection. The major laboratories for marine fisheries research are the CNR branch in Ancona, on the Adriatic Sea, and in Mazara del Vallo, on the Strait of Sicily. Applied research is also performed by a number of private entities under the coordination of the Fisheries Directorate. Economics data and financial, operating and marketing information are collected by IREPA (Institute for Economic Research in Fishery and Aquaculture/Istituto Ricerche Economiche per la Pesca e l’Acquacoltura). The main national sources for financing research projects on fisheries and aquaculture-related topics are the Ministry of Agriculture (Ministero per le Politiche Agricole, Alimentari e Forestali) and CNR. Research and prospection on demersal resources is based mainly on trawl surveys carried out annually since 1985 in the Italian EEZ. Today there is one main monitoring project: the MEDITS programme, financed by EU since 1994. Starting in 2002, there has been a National Programme for the collection of fishery data relevant to the CFP on the basis of EU Regulations.
Institutional frameworkOverall responsibility for the fishery industry is in the hands of the Direzione Generale della Pesca e dell’Acquacoltura, forming a part of the Ministry of Agriculture. In addition, other ministries supervise certain public activities related to fishery monitoring and control. They are the Ministry of Defence, with its Coast Guard, the Italian Navy and separate militia (Carabinieri) force; the Ministry of the Interior, with the State Police; the Ministry of Economy and Finance, with its own policy force for economic matters (Guardia di Finanza); and the Ministry of Health, responsible for public health and veterinary services.
UE. 2006. Data Collection Framework .
EU. 2014. Facts and Figures on the Common Fisheries Policy, Basic statistical data. 2014 edition. Luxembourg.
GFCM-SAC. 2014. Subcommittee on Stock Assessment (SCSA) 2014 - Report of the Fifteenth Session. Bar, Montenegro, 3-4 February 2014. 42 pp.
IREPA. 2012. Osservatorio delle strutture produttive della pesca in Italia. Salerno, IREPA.
Salz P. et al. 2009. Definition of Data Collection Needs for Aquaculture. Report to the EC FISH/2006/15 - Lot 6, May 2009.
Spagnolo M. 2012a. What Kind of Management for Mediterranean Fisheries, Note to the European Parliament. DG for International Policies. Policy Dept B, PE, 2012.
Spagnolo M. 2012b. Local Management Plans: intervention tools for rebalancing fishing effort and biological resources. In: Cataudella and Spagnolo, M. (eds.). La Pesca in Italia. Mipaaf .
STECF. 2014. Review of scientific advice for 2014 – Consolidated Advice on Fish Stocks of Interest to the European Union (STECF-13-27). Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries, 2013. Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, EUR 26328 EN, JRC 86158. 575 pp.
STECF. 2013. Review of scientific advice for 2013 – Consolidated Advice on Fish Stocks of Interest to the European Union (STECF-12-22). Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries, 2012. 553 pp.
Unimar. 2009. Lo stato dell’acquacultura in Italia. Final report to Mipaaf. Rome, UNIMAR.

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