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⇧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.
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
Source: FAO Country Profile
FAO Fisheries statisticsThe tables and graphs in this section are based on statistics prepared by the FAO Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit and disseminated in 2014.
Table 2 – Italy – FAO Fisheries statistics
Figure 1 - Italy - Total fishery production
Figure 2 - Italy - Composition of capture production - 2012
Figure 3 - Italy - Production of aquatic plants
Figure 4 - Italy - Capture production
Figure 5 - Italy - Major species groups in capture production
Figure 6 - Italy - Aquaculture production
Figure 7 - Italy -Major species groups in aquaculture production
Figure 8 - Italy - Import and export value of fish and fishery products
Figure 9 - Italy – Major species groups in import
Figure 10 - Italy – Major species groups in export
Figure 11 - Italy - Per capita supply of fish and fishery products
Figure 12 - Italy - Composition of total fish food supply – 2010
Updated 2014⇧Part 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
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)
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)
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)
Table 7 – Italy - Main technical parameters of the national fleet and employment by administrative region, 2012.
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:
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
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
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:
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 main steps leading to the definition of local TURFs:
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
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
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.
Source: Unimar, 2009
Figure 13 – Italy - Geographic distribution of aquaculture fish farms in Italy
The productive structure
The main farming systems used in Italy are the following:
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:
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.
FAO Thematic data bases