1. Characteristics, structure and resources of the sector
    1. Summary
    2. History and general overview
    3. Human resources
    4. Farming systems distribution and characteristics
    5. Cultured species
    6. Practices/systems of culture
  2. Sector performance
    1. Production
    2. Market and trade
    3. Contribution to the economy
  3. Promotion and management of the sector
    1. The institutional framework
    2. The governing regulations
    3. Applied research, education and training
  1. Trends, issues and development
    1. References
      1. Bibliography
      2. Related links
    Characteristics, structure and resources of the sector
    In the early 1980s, Italy played a major role in the development of modern aquaculture in the Mediterranean region and production of fish and shellfish increased from the 1980s to the early 2000s. Stable productions were observed in 2002-2013, both for freshwater and marine species, while significant fluctuations characterized shellfish production over the years.

    Forty species of fish, shellfish and crustaceans are farmed, but 97 percent of the production is based on five species: rainbow trout in freshwater and European seabass, gilthead seabream, Mediterranean mussel, and Japanese carpet shell in marine waters. Italian aquaculture can be divided into three main farming systems: extensive fish culture (ponds, confined coastal lagoons, “valli”), intensive fish culture (land-based, inshore and offshore cages) and shellfish culture (suspended and bottom culture).

    In 2013, there were 820 aquaculture companies, mainly located in the north (64 percent). Shellfish companies accounted for over 50 percent of total companies and involved more than 5 000 workers. In the last decade some intensive marine land-based farms moved to the open sea for conflicts for land use in coastal areas. However, the high bureaucratic commitment and the complex and expensive licensing systems have not facilitated the start of new aquaculture enterprises.

    National aquaculture production was 140 846 tonnes in 2013, for a total value of around EUR 393 million. Mussel production accounted for 63 percent in weight and 44 percent in value. The freshwater and marine sector represented respectively 28 percent and 9 percent in weight and 32 percent and 24 percent in value. Italy accounted for 13 percent of European (EU27) aquaculture productions in weight in 2012, ranking fourth after Spain, France and UK, and 10.7 percent in value (FAO, 2015). Italy is the EU largest producer of Japanese carpet shell (94.2 percent in weight), covers over 70 percent of the production of Mediterranean mussel and is the leading producer of caviar in the EU.

    Italy is a net importer of seafood products, with imports 8 times higher that exports in 2013. Per capita seafood consumption declined in recent years from 20.8 kg down to 19.5 kg in 2013, with 3.8 kg consumption of aquaculture products.

    Within the reform action requested by the European Commission for aquaculture [COM(2013) 229] the General Directorate for Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies prepared the 2014-2020 National Multiannual Strategic Plan for Aquaculture, with the aim of re-organizing national aquaculture and promoting strategic interventions according to production characteristics, regional specializations and environmental vocations.
    History and general overview
    Aquaculture in Italy dates back to the Etruscans and Ancient Romans and reflects the historical interest in fish production in the Mediterranean region. Traditional marine fish culture was born in coastal lagoons, where euryhaline species such as European seabass, gilthead seabream, grey mullets and European eel entered for trophic reasons and were confined in primitive forms of extensive culture systems, which evolved in time. In this context, the north Adriatic “vallicoltura” represented the most important farming model, dating back to the 14th century, as witnessed in rules from the Ancient Diritto Veneto. The implementation of artificial propagation techniques since the mid 1970s gave rise to modern marine intensive fish aquaculture, mainly of European sea bass and gilthead sea bream. Shellfish culture also originated in confined coastal areas, such as coastal lagoons, sheltered gulfs and harbours.

    With reference to freshwater, the first Italian trout farm was built in Piemonte (northwest Italy) in 1860, while the first hatcheries and stocking actions in rivers started in Lazio and Trentino only in the 1930s. The first family farms characterized by modest productions started in the 1950s. Most trout farms were built in the 1970s-80s.

    Thanks to the experience gained in freshwater culture, in the early 1980s Italy played a major role in the development of marine aquaculture in the Mediterranean region, transferring know-how to several countries. The first intensive productions of European sea bass and gilthead sea bream were performed in land-based farms, on technologies drawn and adapted from trout culture. The availability of hatchery produced fry and juveniles from artificial propagation and the production of correctly formulated feed contributed to a better growth of these species, determining a quick expansion of land-based marine aquaculture in Italy.

    At present Italian marine fish culture suffered from the competition on the market with the fast growing cage farming industry in other Mediterranean countries, mainly Greece and Turkey. This also because of the delay in moving intensive culture from land-based farms to sea cages, mainly for environmental and bureaucratic constraints and also for the morphology of Italian coastal shores which are largely unprotected.

    Today Italian aquaculture is a unique heritage of knowledge, experience, excellence and culture that has fostered the development of diversified culture practices adapted to the favorable geomorphological, climatic and environmental conditions of the country. Italy plays a leading role within the Mediterranean and European aquaculture market. It is characterized by high quality products, meeting consumer demand for safety and high nutritional and organoleptic value
    Human resources
    The occupational trend in aquaculture in Italy showed an increase in 2002-2011. 7 426 workers were recorded in 2011; 5.5 percent more than in 2003. The number of workers with a permanent job increased from 66 percent to 93 percent. Women's employment is still very low, accounting to 4 percent in 2011. Most man power is involved in the shellfish sector (79 percent) and the rest is distributed between the culture industry of marine (12 percent) and freshwater (9 percent) fish.

    Employment in aquaculture (2003-2011)
    workers 2003 2008 2011
    No. % No. % No. %
    Permanent 4 637 65.90% 7 552 88.80% 6 899 92.90%
    Seasonal 2 399 34.10% 948 11.20% 527 7.10%
    Total7 036   8 500   7 426  
    Source: MIPAAF, 2014-2020 National Multiannual Strategic Plan for Aquaculture (IT-SAP, 2014). Data: UNIMAR (2014)
    Farming systems distribution and characteristics
    Italian aquaculture can be divided into three main farming systems: extensive culture (ponds, confined coastal lagoons, “valli”), intensive culture (land-based, inshore and offshore cages) and shellfish culture (suspended and bottom culture).

    In 2013, 820 aquaculture companies were present in Italy, mainly located in the north (64 percent), but also in the south and Islands (26 percent) and the centre (10 percent). Since 2002 the number of companies increased by 22 percent, though in recent years there has been a reduction in number due to the reorganization of enterprises (especially shellfish) and the temporary or permanent closure of some mariculture farms.

    Shellfish companies account for over 50 percent of the total number of farms and contribute to 63 percent of total aquaculture production. Mussels are mainly produced in suspended longlines though the traditional fixed method is still used in coastal areas and coastal lagoons (e.g. gulf of Trieste, gulf of Taranto, Veneto lagoons, etc.), whereas carpet shells are grown directly on the sea bottom. At present shellfish culture is carried out in 12 Italian regions, mainly in the Adriatic region. Mussels are mainly farmed in Emilia Romagna, Veneto and Apulia, but also in Marche, Sardinia and Campania. Carpet shell production is limited to a few regions, mainly to Emilia-Romagna and Veneto. The remaining 50 percent of the companies is located in continental areas (78 percent) and coastal areas (22 percent) and contributes to about 37 percent of total Italian production.

    As far as fish culture is concerned, freshwater aquaculture represents the most important sector in both production weight and value. Fish are commonly reared in tanks at density not exceeding 20 kg mc and more rarely in ponds. 311 active farms were present in 2013, located primarily in the north and central regions. Marine fish farming is mainly practiced in intensive systems, both in land-based facilities (tanks or ponds) and at sea (inshore and offshore cages) scattered along the Italian coastal areas. Ninety farms (11 percent of the total number of aquaculture farms) operated in 2013. Seabass and seabream as well as other species such as grey mullets and European eel are also cultured under extensive and semi-extensive conditions in coastal areas (e.g. “valli”, ponds and lagoons) of the northern Adriatic regions and in Sardinia, Sicily, Apulia and Lazio.

    Cultured species
    More than 40 fish, shellfish and crustaceans species are cultured in Italy, though 97 percent of production is based on five species: rainbow trout, European sea bass, gilthead sea bream, Mediterranean mussel and Japanese carpet shell.

    75 percent of fish culture production consists of freshwater species, mainly rainbow trout (Oncorhyncus mykiss), sea trout (Salmo trutta), brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus), white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus), Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baerii), Danube sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii), sterlet sturgeon (Acipenser ruthenus), Adriatic sturgeon (Acipenser naccari), beluga (Huso huso) and also hybrids, for the production of meat and caviar. Other freshwater cultured species are common carp (Cyprinus carpio) and other cyprinids, catfish (Ictalurus melas) and channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus), hybrid basses (Morone chrysops X Morone saxatilis) and largemouth black bass (Micropterus salmoides).

    The most important species cultured in marine and brackish waters are European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata). Small productions are recorded for grey mullets, European eel (Anguilla anguilla), sharpsnout seabream (Diplodus puntazzo), shi drum (Umbrina cirrosa) and meagre (Argyrosomus regius). New candidate species for aquaculture are greater amberjack (Seriola dumerili) and common sole (Solea solea) for which hatchery technologies are currently being finalized. The fattening of Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) started in 2004 in cages in coastal areas of south Italy, in Sicily, Calabria, Apulia, Campania and stopped in 2012.

    Shellfish production is mainly focused on Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis) and Japanese carpet shell (Ruditapes philippinarum). Other species are grooved carpet shell (Ruditapes decussatus) and Pacific cupped oyster (Crassostrea gigas) with small productions, but representing a major diversification opportunity for shellfish culture.

    With regard to crustaceans, kuruma prawn (Penaeus japonicus) and freshwater shrimps: White-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) and Red swamp crawfish (Procambarus clarkii) are cultured with small productions.
    Practices/systems of culture
    Aquaculture in Italy is characterized by different culture systems and production technologies:

    Extensive culture is practiced in large surfaces, at low densities (10-150 kg/hectare) in:
    • “Valli” and coastal lagoons.
    • Reservoirs/man made lakes.
    Semi-extensive culture is practiced in earthern ponds, at densities which greatly vary, somewhere in between intensive and extensive culture, up to 1 kg/m3.

    The main systems used for intensive culture, with productions of 15-40 kg/m3, are:
    • Ponds, raceways and tanks.
    • Floating and submergible cages.
    Shellfish culture is carried out:
    • In floating system (longlines).
    • Traditional fixed method.
    • As bottom culture.
    Sector performance
    Shellfish (mussels and carpet shells) represent the main productive segment in terms of weight, accounting for 63 percent of Italian aquaculture production. Mediterranean mussel is quantitatively the most important species. In 2013, 64 235 tonnes were produced, which represent about 72 percent of shellfish production. Productions significantly fluctuated in the past decade, mainly due to bureaucratic issues, environmental problems (algal blooms) and extreme weather events.

    Carpet shells had an overall production of 24 609 tonnes in 2013, which account for 95 percent of carpet shell production in Europe and 28 percent of shellfish production in Italy. The allochthonous Japanese carpet shell represents 87 percent of carpet shell production, with 21 510 tonnes. A slight decrease in production was observed in 2012 and 2013, mostly related to the lack of natural wild seed from nursery areas in the Venice lagoon and to environmental quality of shellfish areas.

    Oyster culture is still marginal (53 tonnes in 2013), but offer good opportunity for diversification.

    Freshwater fish
    The most important sector in terms of value is freshwater culture, mainly trouts. It adds up to 27 percent of the total global value of Italian aquaculture production, with 36 300 tonnes. Trouts and other salmonids (e.g. Salvelinus spp) represent about 95 percent of total production in freshwater and the production trend from 2002 is increasing (+8.5 percent).

    European eel still represents an important cultured species, though its production has been declining since 2000, when its production reached a peak of 1 700 tonnes, and only 642 tonnes were produced in 2013, mainly in freshwater. This negative trend reflects the European crisis of eel culture due to difficulties in obtaining glass and yellow eels from the wild, to the consequent increase in the price of seed for grow-out, and to the increasing competition from emergent Asian countries.

    Sturgeons reached maximum production in 2002, with 1 250 tonnes, and 718 tonnes were produced in 2013. The production trend has been conditioned by commercial strategies, initially oriented towards meat production and later to caviar (roe of sturgeon of the family Acipenseridae), a luxury food sold on both national and international market. Thanks to investments carried out since the early ‘80s, the crisis of wild caviar production in other countries and the high quality of the national farmed caviar, Italy became the EU leading country for caviar production (25 tonnes in 2013) and is among the top world producers, together with USA, France and Russia.

    Marine fish
    Marine species represent the third segment for production in weight and value, mainly for European sea bass with 6 330 tonnes and gilthead sea bream with 6 184 tonnes, corresponding respectively to 12.2 percent and 11.9 percent of fish culture productions. Marine fish culture, both in land-based ponds and tanks and in sea cages, has shown a stable trend in the last decade (sea bream +16 percent; sea bass -10,2 percent).

    Meagre (Argyrosomus regius) is produced in marine land-based farms for a total of 115 tonnes in 2013. This species offers interesting commercial opportunities for added value products and farming activities may further increase. Shi-drum (Umbrina cirrosa) productions are small. Among Sparids, Sharpsnout seabream (Diplodus puntazzo) has been constantly produced since 2002, but unresolved health problems made production decline to 30 tonnes in 2013. Despite the low grey mullets production (198 tonnes in 2013), there is a renewed interest for these species for both direct sale and for processed products such as smoked fillets, marinated fish and bottarga.

    Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) farming, limited to fattening and finishing, was carried out in cages from 2004, with a peak in production of 1 800 tonnes in 2005. The recent European policy for bluefin tuna quotas, high management costs and difficulties on export market, mainly to Japan, determined the crises and stop of tuna farming in Italy in 2012.

    Crustaceans only represent 0,03 percent of national aquaculture production. The kuruma prawn (Penaeus japonicus) is produced in marine and brackish waters, with limited productions due to unfavorable climatic conditions, lack of suitable areas for extensive culture and unresolved feeding and environmental issues. A small quantity of freshwater prawns is further produced.

    Overview of aquaculture in Italy (2013)
    Companies (n.)     820
    Geographical distribution      
    North     527
    Centre     80
    South/Islands     213
    Productive sector    
    Shellfish     414
    Fish     401
    Crustaceans     5
    National production (tonnes)     140 846
    Geographical distribution      
    North     95 371
    Centre     14 677
    South/Islands     30 798
    Productive sector    
    Shellfish     88 897
    Freshwater fish     39 028
    Marine fish     12 911
    Crustaceans     9
    Production value (M€)     393
    Shellfish     173
    Fish     220
    Trade balance (M€)     -256
    Import     340
    Export     84
    Main farmed species and contribution to Italian aquaculture
    Shellfishtonnes% (segment)% (total)
    Mediterranean mussel 64 235 72.3 45.6
    Japanese carpet shell 24 609 27.7 17.5
    Rainbow trout 35 034 67.5 24.9
    European sea bass 6 330 12.2 4.5
    Gilthead sea bream 6 184 11.9 4.4
    Sturgeons spp. 718 1.4 0.5
    European eel 642 1.2 0.5
    Source: MIPAAF, 2014-2020 National Multiannual Strategic Plan for Aquaculture (IT-SAP, 2014). Data: ISMEA and UNIMAR

    According to FAO statistics aquaculture production in terms of volume and value was as follows:

    Market and trade
    Italy is a net importer of seafood with a self-sufficiency rate (ratio of national production from both capture fisheries and aquaculture on total apparent consumption of the national market) of 22 percent in 2013. The national seafood market depends on the import of both live and fresh products for direct consumption and added value products (frozen, processed and preserved).

    Imports of seafood were 8 times higher that exports in 2013, with a deficit of seafood imports/exports of EUR 3 700 million. Imports amounted to 921 665 tonnes in weight and to approximately EUR 4 249 million in value, and increased in both weight and value over the last ten years.

    With regards to aquaculture, the slight recovery in production volume (+2.6 percent) in 2013 supported the export of farmed product for a total of 25 226 tonnes in volume, increasing by 23.6 percent compared to 2012. In particular there has been a sharp increase in the export of mussels (+32.4 percent; 10 589 tonnes), which rank first in exported fresh products, and trouts (+3.6 percent; 7 702 tonnes).

    The total volume of imports of aquaculture products amounted to 112 381 tonnes in 2013. Mussels represent the main imported product (32 364 tonnes), followed by Atlantic salmon (29 373 tonnes), sea bream (25 560 tonnes) and sea bass (20 786 tonnes).

    Following the national economic crisis, the national consumption of fresh fish products decreased by 2.6 percent in 2013, and per capita consumption to 19.5 kg is significantly lower than the mean European per capita consumption of 22.5 kg.

    Italian aquaculture has recently been affected by the opening of global markets that, while increasing the availability and variety of products, led to the loss of local/territorial characterization of fish products and consumption and the reduction of the market segmentation at local level. In this scenario, the qualification and identification of national fish products has become an essential requirement for the economic sustainability of Italian aquaculture.

    The strategy chosen by the Italian aquaculture sector is based on the quality of processes and products . The adoption of voluntary codes and certification schemes to ensure the quality of domestic aquaculture products is an established practice. The added value of national production is now further enhanced by large-scale retailers that offer certified products according to certified standards, meeting the growing consumer demand for clear information on labeling, traceability and more guarantees on production processes. Italian aquaculture companies are also adopting further measures to guarantee the excellence of the “Made in Italy” label, based on the quality and the safety of national products as a mean to boost the development of the sector and increase exports.

    The strong foreign competition on seafood market pushed market prices for aquaculture products down to their lowest levels, with a consequent decline in profits. Accordingly, today farmers have reacted by diversifying their product towards processed products, mainly filleted and gutted products and new seafood preparations for rapid domestic consumption. At the same time, steps are being taken towards the modernisation of facilities and the integration of both the processing and the marketing sectors, shortening distribution time.

    Nevertheless, only a small share of Italian aquaculture products are processed at present. Among fish, trouts are either processed on the farms, as most farms belong to large companies, or sent to external processing plants. Some of these also process other species, such as mackerels, Atlantic salmon, eels, tuna fish, etc., in order to offer the consumer a wider range of products, such as smoked fish, marinated products, fish burgers, brochettes and bottarga. Processing is also carried out on whole products directly by retail shops, supermarkets or catering services.

    Investments in the processing industry aimed at creating new added value products, new processing systems and to use by-products from the main processing cycles are considered a priority in the National Multiannual Strategic Plan for Aquaculture by 2020.
    Contribution to the economy
    Aquaculture plays a small role in Italian economy and represents less than 0.1 percent in value of the agriculture sector. However both fish and shellfish aquaculture is perceived as a sustainable source of animal proteins, able to provide important ingredients in the Mediterranean diet and to guarantee internal demand of seafood.

    The total value of Italian aquaculture production was estimated in 2013 at EUR 393 million, representing about the 33 percent of total seafood sector. Shellfish industry generates EUR 173 million and represents 45 percent of the total value. Aquaculture plays an important role in some Italian areas and is an important source of employment for local communities, as in the north Adriatic area. The importance of aquaculture for local economy and employment varies on regional basis: about half of the total aquaculture value is produced in Veneto (EUR 91,7 million) and Emilia Romagna (EUR 84,7 million), where shellfish industry has its main productive pole (66 percent in value) and involves more 4 900 workers in 340 farms along the north Adriatic coastal areas. Friuli Venezia Giulia is the main producer of freshwater fish, mainly trouts, for a total value of EUR 50 million. Mariculture in cages and land-based ponds and tanks along coastal areas generates an income of EUR 27,4 million in Tuscany, EUR 28.8 million in Apulia and EUR 13.3 million in Sicily. In Lombardia, sturgeon culture alone generates EUR 20.1 million.

    At present Italian aquaculture involves around 7 500 permanent workers directly involved in the sector (a figure that can be doubled if tertiary related activities are included) and provides important job opportunities in some coastal and rural areas.
    Promotion and management of the sector
    The institutional framework
    The legislative power in relation to aquaculture activities is conferred to the administrative regions, which are responsible for administrative and bureaucratic issues such as the licensing system for granting state concessions, renewals, extensions and other authorization requirements.

    The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies (MiPAAF) is responsible for the national policy in capture fisheries and aquaculture and the coordination of administrative regional policies. MiPAAF also acts as a link among the different sectors, institutions and services operating in aquaculture, with the aim of encouraging cross-disciplinary actions and integration at regional and local level.

    The General Directorate for Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture (DGPEMAC) of MiPAAF implements national planning activities in capture fisheries and aquaculture, maintains institutional relations with the European Union and coordinates actions and activities with other ministries, administrative regions and other stakeholders. The jurisdiction of DGPEMAC includes seafood production chain (e.g. capture, harvest, promotion, communication and marketing, traceability, quality, etc.), protection of natural resources, research activities in capture fisheries and aquaculture, use of vessels and crew, implementation of the aquaculture regulatory framework together with the administrative Regions and interested parties. A one-stop window for aquaculture will soon be implemented at DGPEMAC to guide and coordinate the different authorities and to support the regional offices, according to the recommendations of the European Commission on administrative simplification and of Italy Multiannual Strategic Plan for Aquaculture (2014-2020). Other MiPAAF Directorates have specific expertise in competitive policies and food quality in fisheries.

    The Ministry of the Environment and Protection of Land and Sea (MATTM) has jurisdiction on aquaculture and environment interactions, environmental impact assessment, marine protected areas, Natura 2000 sites, conservation on natural resources and biodiversity, application of EU environmental legislative framework, such as the Water Directive (WFD) and the Marine Strategy Directive (MSFD), and environmental education. The National Institute of Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) is a governmental institution under the supervision of MATTM which also gives technical advice for fisheries and aquaculture to DGPEMAC.

    The Ministry of Health deals with animal health and welfare, veterinary medicine, hygiene and food safety, including products from capture fisheries and aquaculture. The General Directorates interface with the Council of Europe, the World Health Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) also for issues concerning aquaculture. The public veterinary institutes (Istituti Zooprofilattici Sperimentali) and the National Institute of Health (Istituto Superiore di Sanità) which refer to the National Sanitary Service, are involved in institutional activities on fisheries and aquaculture in relation to animal health and welfare and product hygiene and safety.

    The Ministry of Economic Development has jurisdiction for competitiveness and innovation policies, energy policies and integrated development with other industrial activities.

    The Ministry of Education, University and Research is responsible for some issues related to research planning, education and training in capture fisheries and aquaculture.

    The Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport is responsible for licenses for land and water use for aquaculture activities.

    The Ministry of Labour and Social Polices is responsible for social security and insurance of workers in aquaculture.

    The organisational framework of Italian aquaculture is formed by two producers’ organisations, the Italian Association of Fish Producers (Associazione Piscicoltori Italiani, API), gathering most marine and freshwater fish culture companies since 1964, and the Mediterranean Aquaculture Association (Associazione Mediterranea Acquacoltori, AMA), established in 2010 and gathering 72 cooperatives and companies, mainly involved in shellfish culture.
    The governing regulations
    Most of the relevant regulatory framework for aquaculture in Italy is common to capture fisheries and is based on a few general rules. However, there are many national and European regulations governing strategic aspects of aquaculture production. These include rules on the use of land and maritime areas, the sustainable use of natural resources, the protection of environmental quality and sensitive areas, preservation of biodiversity, animal health and welfare during farming, transport, killing/slaughtering, hygiene and products safely, processing, traceability, labeling and marketing. Other provisions provide definitions of aquaculture activities and fish entrepreneurs and indicate ways and principles to implement the objectives set out by EU regulations and public funds for aquaculture development. One unique aquaculture law is under study in order to simply this multiple regime and recognize clear responsibilities of different governing bodies in rule’s application.

    Administrative simplification remains a strategic objective for Italian aquaculture, represented by more than 90 percent of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with administrative costs proportionally up to 10 times higher than large companies. At present, three main types of bureaucratic procedures have to be fulfilled:
    • Issue/renewal of licenses for aquaculture sites and related obligations.
    • Management inspection/health authorizations and related obligations (e.g. CITES, UVAC).
    • Issue/renewal of authorizations for aquaculture activities (Legislative Decree n.79, 02.14.2013).
    The issue of licenses for aquaculture sites is a regional responsibility. However regions operate on the basis of the Navigation Code and on regulations issued by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport that determines license fees.

    For more information on aquaculture legislation in Italy please click on the following link:
    National Aquaculture Legislation Overview - Italy
    Applied research, education and training
    Research funding in Italy is mainly public based, and both state and regional financial entities are responsible for funding R&D activities in aquaculture. The DGPEMAC of MiPAAF is the most important financial entity, funding more than 70 percent of national research projects in the last 10 years within the three-years Fisheries and Aquaculture National Plans. A national Aquaculture Platform is being built at DGPEMAC to identify research priorities and to facilitate dissemination of information among stakeholders.

    The Ministry of Health is in charge of financing research projects related to aquaculture diseases, welfare, drugs and vaccines for aquaculture species, mainly through its network of public veterinary institutes and the National Institute of Health. The Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Research, provide a small amount of funds to research in aquaculture, mainly acting through ISPRA and the National Research Institute (CNR) and the Universities, respectively.

    Italian research in aquaculture is based on a good knowledge and a high potential in human resources. According to the FP7 Aquamed project (2013), 26 research centres, 72 laboratories and 25 culture facilities (hatcheries and grow-out farms) carried out research in aquaculture. Full time staff involved in aquaculture research includes 372 workers, 44 percent of which are research scientists, 25 percent technicians and 31 percent trainees. One-hundred and twenty research projects on aquaculture were carried out from 2005 to 2012 through national and European calls. Both the public and the private sector are involved in research and aquaculture related activities, with good collaboration amongst research institutions and aquaculture farmers, who participated to 50 percent of research projects.

    Courses at university level concerning aquaculture are still limited. These include a three-year bachelor course on “Aquaculture and hygiene of fish productions”, carried out in a single university, and postgraduate schools/courses, related to animal productions, marine biology and ecology, environmental, agronomic and veterinary sciences. Training courses and workshops addressed to different professional levels involved in aquaculture are offered by the MIPAAF, by the public veterinary institutes, the National Institute of Health, universities and producers’ organisations.
    Trends, issues and development
    Although aquaculture is a rather young sector compared to agriculture and livestock, it has become a well established and sustainable industry able to create income and employment. Italy is a leading country in Europe in terms of aquaculture production and does have important assets linked to:
    • A wide variety of environments and climatic conditions which may favour the development of diversified and innovative aquaculture activities with good potential in production and low environmental impact (eg. alternative species, non food commodities species, multitrophic aquaculture).
    • The application of good aquaculture practices with high environmental standards to guarantee the sustainability of the whole production process and the quality, safety and traceability of cultured products throughout all the value chain (“Made in Italy”).
    • Traditional knowledge and good expertise of aquaculture personnel involved in fish and shellfish culture, as well as a high quality research, that needs to be better coordinated and results to be disseminated to aquaculture farmers.
    In the last decade, however, aquaculture in Italy (as in Europe), hasn’t shown the expected growth and innovation potentials nor played a vicariant role to capture fisheries in satisfying the demand for seafood, 76 percent of which still derives from imports.

    Between 2007 and 2013, the European Marine and Fishery Funds (EMFF) and national funds supported several small investments in the existing fish and shellfish farms, but failed in the renovation and realization of new culture facilities. Main challenges are related to difficulties to co-finance investments, to the high bureaucratic commitment and to the complex and expensive licensing systems, that have not facilitated the start up of new aquaculture enterprises.

    In coherence with the reform actions requested by the European Commission for aquaculture [COM(2013) 229] and in the interest of developing a framework to facilitate aquaculture development, the DGPEMAC prepared in 2014 the National Multiannual Strategic Plan for Aquaculture (2014-2020). Its main goal is to re-organize national aquaculture, at present scattered in un-coordinated local actions, and to promote decisive choices and strategic interventions diversified according to production characteristics, regional specializations and environmental vocations, for the development of a sustainable and active aquaculture industry.

    Considering the importance of aquaculture activities in coastal and rural areas, administrative regions have a strategic role in promoting territorial development policies and in guaranteeing that all objectives for growth and competitiveness are attained, especially in those territories where local communities rely on aquaculture. This path therefore requires a strong integration of central and regional components around common competitiveness objectives, to face the increasing demand by entrepreneurs who request a new and more efficient governance model that simplifies bureaucratic procedure, reduces administrative fulfillments, facilitates the assignment of marine areas to new aquaculture activities, improves innovation and research, supports market conditions and equal competition, fostering aquaculture growth and competitiveness.

    The 2014-2020 National Multiannual Strategic Plan for Aquaculture identifies 4 priority areas and 36 strategic actions to reach the objectives for economic growth, social equity and responsible use of environmental resources.

    Target 1: To strengthen the institutional capacity and simplify administrative procedures
    It represents an important target as issues concerning governance, strategic planning, multiple and overlapping regulations acting in aquaculture, administrative simplification, bureaucracy costs and times are the major obstacles to the development and competitiveness of Italian aquaculture.

    Target 2: To guarantee the development and the sustainable growth of aquaculture through the coordinated planning of space and the potential increase of aquaculture sites
    It includes 6 actions that provide the aquaculture sector with the tools to compete for the access and the use of space and resources at sea and in inland waters, to guarantee good environmental quality in shellfish protected areas and to ensure the availability and the quality of freshwater resources for land-based aquaculture. The identification of allocated zones for aquaculture (AZA) in marine coastal areas represents a major objective for the sustainable development of aquaculture, the improvement of competitiveness of maritime economies and the reduction of conflicts in land and sea use. According to the guidelines of the EU Commission and with the resolution of the FAO General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (FAO GFCM/36/2012/1) on AZA, Italy identified this process as a priority for national aquaculture development.

    Target 3: To promote competitiveness in aquaculture
    This area includes a range of 16 strategic actions finalized at stimulating innovation, increasing competitiveness, promoting knowledge and result transfer, diversifying productions, improving environmental sustainability and resource use. These actions face a series of criticalities linked to some peculiarities of Italian aquaculture, such as limited farm size, low diversification of products and activities, lack of financial tools for new investments, low exchange and transfer of results from research to industry, limited drugs and vaccines, and more general factors, such as health risks, and climate change.

    The strategic actions were developed within the 4 main strategic sub-areas, as indicated by EU Commission:
    • Strengthening of competitiveness and profitability of aquaculture enterprises.
    • Support to strengthen technological and innovation development and knowledge transfer.
    • Development of new professional skills and permanent training.
    • Promotion of an aquaculture that guarantees a high level of environmental protection, animal health and welfare, public health and food safety.
    Target 4: To promote conditions for fair competition for the operators and improvement of the market organization for aquaculture products
    It includes 8 actions aimed at overcoming emerging challenges due to the low internationalization of national aquaculture, low product diversification, increase competition and pressure of imports and enhance image of aquaculture products. The initiative for the Market Observatory plays an important role in following consumption trends and thus facilitating the adjustment of the offer to consumer’s demand. Other important goals regard incentives to Producers Organisations (PO), promotion of labeling and traceability of aquaculture products, financial support to promotional and communication campaigns for national aquaculture products and to local participative strategies.

    The institutional and regulatory framework that will result from national and local policies by 2020 will determine whether Italian aquaculture will develop in new geographic areas, culture new species, attract new investors and increase production as expected (+38 000 tonnes by 2025) to meet national seafood demand.
    Cataudella, S. and M. Spagnolo (eds). 2011. The state of Italian marine fisheries and aquaculture. Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies (MiPAAF), Rome, Italy, 618 p.
    IT-SAP, 2014. National Multiannual Strategic Aquaculture Plan 2014-2020. Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies (MiPAAF) - DGPEMAC, Rome, Italy, 282 pp.
    Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy, amending Council Regulations (EC) No 1954/2003 and (EC) No 1224/2009 and repealing Council Regulations (EC) No 2371/2002 and (EC) No 639/2004 and Council Decision 2004/585/EC.
    Regulation (EU) No 508/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 May 2014 on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Council Regulations (EC) No 2328/2003, (EC) No 861/2006, (EC) No 1198/2006 and (EC) No 791/2007 and Regulation (EU) No 1255/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council.
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