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. 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. Related links
    Characteristics, structure and resources of the sector
    Aquaculture in Slovenia comprises freshwater aquaculture (cold-water fish farming of salmonids, warm-water fish farming of cyprinids) and mariculture (fish and shellfish farming). Warm-water and cold-water fish farming has been practiced since the end of nineteenth century, while mariculture has a shorter history: it started at the end of the twentieth century.

    The geographical, climatic and water conditions in Slovenia are favourable for cold-water fish husbandry. Relatively small streams and water sources are the main reason why small-scale fish farms are the most common aquaculture enterprises. Production capacities of recorded freshwater fish farms have shown that cold-water fish farms had 76 facilities (64 000 m3) and recorded warm-water fish farms had 32 facilities (500 ha) in 2015. In mariculture the total volume under fish farming production was 18 000 m3, and under mussel farming production the area was 47 ha.

    In 2015, 215 persons were involved in aquaculture activities in Slovenia. Of these 180 persons were employed in freshwater fish farming and 35 persons in marine fish and shellfish farming. The aquaculture sector is characterized by mainly small self-employed family farms, most of which have one employee and some are assisted by unpaid family members.

    The major species contributing most of the production value in freshwater fish farming are rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and common carp (Cyprinus carpio), whilst in mariculture it is Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis) and European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax).

    Total aquaculture production in 2015 was 1 590 tonnes, of which 958.9 tonnes comprised freshwater fish, and of these 161.2 tonnes warmwater fish; and 631.1 tonnes comprised marine fish and shellfish (573.3 tonnes). The average production value of the aquaculture in 2015 was around 3.98 million EUR (current prices).

    Slovenia is a net importer of fish and fish products. In 2015 imports were approximately four times larger than exports. There is a continuous import of fresh farmed species, particularly salmonids. The majority of the imported fish products come mainly from the European Union and are frozen or processed.
    History and general overview
    Slovene aquaculture comprises freshwater (cold-water fish farming of salmonids, warm-water fish farming of cyprinids) and marine (fish and shellfish farming) culture.

    The history of Slovenian freshwater aquaculture goes back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when fish breeding was in the custody of the church, monasteries and squires. In 1870 the first fish farm for artificial carp breeding (common carp, Cyprinus carpio) in Slovenia was established and experience from Germany, Bohemia and Hungary was used. In 1881, with the first successful artificial insemination of brown trout made by professor Ivan Franke, fish farming of salmonids began. At the beginning of the twentieth century the successful breeding of brown trout (Salmo trutta fario), marble trout (S. marmoratus), rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) as well as Danube salmon (Hucho hucho) was already taking place. After that time freshwater aquaculture development slowed down, and although some large "cooperatives" owned freshwater farms and a few small private farms were present, the production of freshwater fish was low and more or less stagnated until the 1950s.

    Between the 1950s and 1980s, some larger facilities for fish farming were constructed that were state-owned, which were privatised after Slovenian independence in 1991. After this period, smaller fish farms developed, also in connection to farming activities.

    Since 1980 there has been a significant development in mariculture, first in farming Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis), and from 1992 with European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata).

    Great progress in fish farming was achieved in 1991 when the Slovenian government decided to actively invest in aquaculture. The introduction of subsidies for new farms led to the enlargement of already existent farming capacities, the organization of an advisory office for fish farming and the introduction of procedures for easier and faster acquisition of locations suitable for constructing new fish farms for aquaculture production.

    Besides the rainbow trout, other species produced in cold-water fish farming are grayling (Thymallus thymallus), lake trout (Salmo trutta lacustris) and char (Salvelinus alpinus). The non indigenous species rainbow trout is bred mainly for the market and recreational fishing, while the indigenous species such as brown trout, marble trout and lake trout, Danube salmon and grayling are bred for the natural waters restocking. Warm-water fish farming consists of the breeding of many cyprinid species, but economically important are the semi-intensive or extensive polyculture breeding of common carp (Cyprinus carpio), grass carp ( Ctenopharyngodon idellus ), silver carp ( Hypophthalmichthys molitrix ), bighead carp ( Hypophthalmichthys nobilis ), pike (Esox lucius), wels (Silurus glanis), pike perch (Stizostedion lucioperca), tench (Tinca tinca) and North African catfish ( Clarias gariepinus). All these species are mainly produced for the national market and recreational fishing. The breeds nase (Chondrostoma nasus) and Danube roach (Rutilus pigus) are occasionally produced in small quantities, only for the natural waters restocking.

    The breeding of cold-water species at the end of the nineteenth century was practiced mainly through semi-intensive production in earth ponds, and this means of production continued until the 1970s, when a new technology in concrete ponds and the use of complete dry feed for salmonids was progressively introduced. Later in the 1980s, and especially in the 1990s, most of the facilities were already based on concrete ponds and several new farms were designed to promote fish production in concrete raceways. Warm-water breeding practice started as extensive production in ponds and much later, at the end of the nineteenth century, became semi–intensive production. This means of production remained almost the same in recent times when the earthen ponds are harvested in the autumn or early spring.

    The expansion of warm-water aquaculture production is very limited in Slovenia due to the spatial restrictions and stringent conditions concerning nature conservation.

    Mariculture practice is traditional. Fish farming takes place in cages submerged into the sea, while mussel farming takes place in a standard manner in lines of floating buoys linked together, with longline nets hung from them. In 2007, three larger areas were designated for marine aquaculture in Slovenian territorial waters that were subsequently separated into 29 plots, for which concessions were granted for the use of marine water in 2009. It is expected that these plots will not be able to expand, due to the use of Slovenian territorial waters for other purposes.

    In 2015, the total aquaculture production was 1 590 tonnes. Of that 797.7 tonnes were cold-water, and 161.2 tonnes were warm-water fish. In mariculture the total quantity of bred marine fish and shellfish was 631.1 tonnes.
    Human resources
    In 2015, 215 persons were involved in aquaculture activities in Slovenia: of these 180 persons were in freshwater fish farming and 35 in marine fish and shellfish farming. The status in employment reflects the situation in the aquaculture sector whereby the majority of small family farms operates with self employed persons, mostly one employee and some unpaid assistance from family workers. On the other hand the frequency of work shows that 36 percent of all persons employed in freshwater fish farming and 63 percent in mariculture, had full-time jobs (persons working more than 90 percent of working hours in a calendar year). This indicates that fish and shellfish farming was a supplementary activity for many people engaged in it and that some farmers worked on average less than 8 hours a day for different reasons. With respect to the gender of those in employment, in both fresh and mariculture men predominated.

    Persons employed in aquaculture in Slovenia 2015
      freshwater fish farming mariculture
    self-employed 83 5
    Frequency of work - -
    full-time 65 22
    part-time or seasonal or occasional work 115 13
    Job - -
    fish farmer and shell-fish farmer 122 17
    Worker in commercial recreational fishing pond - -
    Other 58 18
    Persons employed, total 180 35
    Data source: Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia, 2015
    Farming systems distribution and characteristics
    Due to natural circumstances, the development of cold-water, warm-water and marine fish farming in Slovenia is limited. While the suitable streams for cold-water fish farming are located practically all over the country, except in the Prekmurje region, the breeding of warm-water fish species is more limited to the Prekmurje, Štajerska, Dolenjska and Notranjska regions. Mariculture takes place in the Bay of Strunjan, the Bay of Debeli rtič (shell-fish farming) and in the Bay of Piran (fish and shell-fish farming).

    In 2008, a central register of aquaculture facilities and commercial ponds was set up in Slovenia, which is administered by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food. In this register, all the facilities are registered where fish are farmed for consumption, restocking and further breeding. Currently, there are 345 aquaculture facilities in the register. Most of them are small family farms with an annual production of less than 10 tonnes which mainly covers own needs or local needs for fresh fish. Almost 80 percent of total warm-water fish production is bred in five larger aquaculture facilities with a capacity greater than 10 tonnes per year.

    From the 345 aquaculture facilities in Slovenia, there are 26 marine aquaculture facilities, 1 of which is for fish farming, while the remaining 20 facilities are for shellfish farming. There are 319 freshwater aquaculture facilities. Of these, there are 98 cold-water aquaculture facilities that farm fish for sale; there are 129 facilities that produce fish for own consumption; there are 108 aquaculture facilities that breed fish for sale; in addition, there are 15 ponds for inland sports fishing and 1 aquaculture facility for farming freshwater crustaceans (put-and-take).

    As of 2015, the utilized volume of all ponds for cold-water fish farming was 64 000 m3 and the total surface area of all ponds used for warm-water fish farming was 500 ha.

    The situation in marine fish farming is more distinct. The total volume for breeding fish at sea (excluding shellfish farming) in 2015 was 18 000 m3. The area of the plots at sea that are used for shellfish farming was 47 ha.

    In 2015, there were 52 aquaculture facilities in Slovenia that also included facilities for breeding fingerlings. According to the latest data there are 3 organic aquaculture farms in Slovenia, however with low production capacity.
    Cultured species
    The major species which account for most of the production value in freshwater fish farming are rainbow trout ( Onchorhychus mykiss ) and common carp ( Cyprinus carpio ).

    Mariculture shellfish farming is more important than fish farming. The major and the only cultured shellfish species, Mediterranean mussel ( Mytilus galloprovincialis ), accounts for 83 percent of total mariculture production. The production of European seabass ( Dicentrarchus labrax ) is more important than the production of gilthead seabream ( Sparus aurata ). It contributes 17 percent to total mariculture production.

    Since the early eighties (1982) the production of the Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis) has been increasing and in 1988 it reached a maximum of 703 tonnes. After that year a significant decline was due to the fact that exports to Italy ceased. In 1995 the production of mussels reached a minimum of 12 tonnes. In recent years, there are increases in production, particularly due to the resolution of the status of shellfish production facilities through the granting of concessions for the use of marine water: first in 2001 and then in 2003, when production reached 135 tonnes, the highest since 1992. There was also a peak in production in 2009, with 311 tonnes of Mediterranean mussels produced. Current production covers mainly the needs of the domestic market. In recent years, considerable difficulties occurred in the production of shellfish due to the frequent closures of sales because of the occurrence of biotoxins, which prevents shellfish farms to be used to their full production capacity.

    From 1991 onwards intensification was carried out especially with farming European seabass and gilthead seabream in the Bay of Piran. A first result of European seabass production in 1992 was 5.7 tonnes. In subsequent years annual variations in production (growth and decline) were noted. In 2001 production reached its maximum with 59 tonnes, and very similar amounts were noted in 2003.

    The first results of gilthead seabream production in 1992 were 4 tonnes. In the following years there was a growth in production, with some variations, until 1997 when production reached a maximum of 61 tonnes. After that year production declined and reached a minimum of 6 tonnes in 2001. In 2003 production was 16 tonnes.

    The relative importance of endemic, introduced and transferred species, as well as genetically improved species in the aquaculture industry is generally very low. Of the 22 endemic species of the Adriatic or Danube river basins, breeding is only carried out for marble trout, Danube salmon and Danube roach. This breeding is important with respect to conservation and sports fishing, but it is rather insignificant for the aquaculture industry. However if rainbow trout and breeding forms of common carp are included as introduced species as conservationists do, then the production of introduced species in the aquaculture industry is very important.

    In Slovenia, inland commercial fishing is prohibited and only sports and recreational fishing is allowed. Due to the limited quantities of inland fisheries resources, inland waters have to be restocked, for repopulation as well as for sports fishing.
    Practices/systems of culture
    The geographical, climatic and water conditions in Slovenia are favourable for cold-water fish husbandry. Relatively small streams and water sources are the main reason why family owned and small-scale fish farms are the most common form of aquaculture.

    Cold-water fish production usually takes place in commercial fish farms with broodstocks, hatchery and ponds for fingerlings situated on cold and well aerated streams. The intensification in breeding technology and numerous reconstructions of existent fish farms were carried out from 1995. The reconstructions consisted of improved water exploitation. New and reconstructed fish farms have mostly concrete breeding channels, where the water flow and oxygen conditions are much better than in old earth ponds with poor water exchange.

    All production in cold-water fish farming results from intensive breeding. –More than 90 per cent of production takes place in concrete and plastic ponds, and the rest in terrestrial ponds.

    Warm-water aquaculture practice is traditional, in fish farms with earthen ponds and water accumulations harvested in autumn or in the early spring. In the past only a few ponds were built exclusively for the purpose of breeding warm-water fish species. More often breeding is a secondary activity in water bodies made for irrigation in agriculture or by flood defense. Approximately 80 percent of wam-water fish production in Slovenia is produced in 4 large retarding basins (storage dams), where extensive breeding with additional feeding takes place.

    Marine fish farming practice is normally intensive and takes place in floating platforms where the cages are submerged into the sea. Shellfish farming practice is extensive and takes place in lines of floating buoys linked together, where longlines with mussels are suspended.
    Sector performance
    In Slovenia in 2015 total aquaculture production was 1 590 tonnes. The majority of this amount came from intensive breeding (cold-water fish and marine fish farming), and the rest from extensive culture (warm-water fish and mussel farming). There have been fluctuations in the aquaculture production in the past according to the market realities and socio-economic changes. However despite some year by year variations, there has been constant growth in production from 1990 to 2003 (in freshwater fish production from 542 tonnes to 1 148 tonnes and in mariculture from 62 tonnes to 206 tonnes). From 2003 to 2009, there has been a decline in freshwater fish production (to 931 tonnes in 2009), which shows the impact of the economic recession that hit Slovenia in 2008, but a rise in mariculture (to 377 tonnes in 2009), mainly due to the resolution of legal status of marine aquaculture facilities through the granting of concessions for the use of marine water.

    In 2015 freshwater fish farmers produced 656 tonnes of rainbow trout (82 percent of total cold-water fish production) and 126.7 tonnes of common carp (78.6 percent of total warm-water fish production). The production of other cold-water fish was 141.7 tonnes and of other warm-water fish 34.5 tonnes.

    Marine shellfish farmers produced 573.3 tonnes of Mediterranean mussel (90.1 percent of total mariculture production) and fish farmers produced 53.5 tonnes of European seabass.

    The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Slovenia according to FAO statistics:

    Market and trade
    Cultured cold-water fish, marine fish and mussels are regularly sold on the national market throughout the entire year. Warm-water fish are traditionally marketed after the production ponds have been harvested in the autumn and in the early months of the spring when the wintering ponds are harvested. There is also a favourable tendency towards marketing carp and other polyculture bred species throughout the whole year.

    Fresh and frozen fish trading in Slovenia is organised through various networks. Fish produced on fish farms is marketed through the following main channels: wholesalers, retailers, processing plants, anglers and exports. Irrespective of its quite rich history, aquaculture production is rather small. It is self-sufficient and is mostly orientated towards sales in the neighbourhood. There has been a slight trend towards sales from local fish farmer communities to stores and supermarket chains. Fish markets are located in almost all Slovene cities, and in almost every store it is possible to buy at least frozen fish. The fish markets usually have their own supply, often directly from producers.

    Slovenia is a net importer of fish and fish products. In 2015, there were 11 996 tonnes of imports of live, fresh, chilled or frozen fish and fisheries products into Slovenia and 1 680 tonnes of exports, while there were 5 315 tonnes of imports of processed or prepared fisheries products and 3 004 tonnes of exports of processed or prepared fisheries products. This means that the amount of imports of fisheries products was about four times higher than the amount of exports.

    With respect to labelling, there are three aquaculture facilities in Slovenia who have acquired ecolabel, i.e. two warm-water facilities and one for trout farming.

    According to data from European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products (EUMOFA), average per capita fish consumption in Slovenia was 10.8 kg in 2014. Considering the production of the main cold-water species in Slovenia, trout, and the fact there were predominantly imports of trout into Slovenia in 2015, it seems that domestic production is mostly consumed in Slovenia. There were almost no exports of carp so it can be considered that domestic production of this species was consumed in Slovenia as well. Also, it appears that most of the production of marine aquaculture is consumed in Slovenia (European seabass represents the main marine aquaculture fish species), as there was little export of seabass in Slovenia in 2015; this was so for Mediterranean mussel as well (the second main marine aquaculture species).
    Promotion and management of the sector
    The institutional framework
    The main leading government agency in fisheries and aquaculture is the Directorate of Forestry, Hunting and Fisheries within the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food. The main task of the Directorate is to provide overall administrative control of aquaculture and fisheries, to ensure an adequate legislative framework for aquaculture and fisheries, and to carry out related legislative tasks. The Directorate is also responsible for the maintenance of fish stocks in natural waters. The concessions for the use of water, which are the prerequisite for setting up a fish farm in Slovenia, are, however, granted by the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning.

    The Directorate manages that part of the state budget which is designed for fisheries and aquaculture. The funds are used for a variety of purposes, including the financing of the setting up and the management of fisheries information systems; financing of performing public service in fisheries by the Fisheries research institute of Slovenia; for the protection of natural resources in fisheries; for the implementation of measures of the Operational Programme for the implementation of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund in the Republic of Slovenia 2014-2020; as well as for the collection of data in and monitoring in fisheries.

    The Inspectorate for Agriculture, Forestry, Hunting and Fisheries is responsible for the market control of fish and fisheries products and for monitoring at sea. The inspectorate is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food.

    There are no producers’ organisations dealing with freshwater or mariculture in Slovenia.
    The governing regulations
    The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food is responsible for fisheries and aquaculture in Slovenia. Fisheries comprises capture fisheries, aquaculture of fish and other water animals and trade in fisheries products. Inland fisheries, fish farming and fish health are managed by three main Acts: the Freshwater Fishery Act, the Livestock-breeding Act (ZŽiv) and the Veterinary Service Act (Zvet) and their regulations, ordinance, etc. Marine fisheries, fish and mussel farming are regulated by Marine Fisheries Act (ZMR-2). In fisheries and aquaculture it is necessary to take into consideration the Environment Protection Act (ZVO), the Nature Conservation Act (ZON), and the Water Act (ZV).
    Applied research, education and training
    Generally in spite of quite a long tradition of aquaculture in Slovenia, there is no leading research institution dealing with fisheries and aquaculture. The research programmes are dispersed to different Government and public institutions. Aquaculture and molecular genetic research takes place in the Zootechnical Department at the Biotechnical faculty, University of Ljubljana. The main interests of researchers in that institute are the selection of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and genetic research into the natural population of marble trout (S. marmoratus) and brown trout (Salmo trutta fario), Danube salmon (Hucho hucho) and grayling (Thymallus thymallus). Fish health research is under the responsibility of the Laboratory for health care of fish, National Veterinary Institute. Ecological, biological research and the breeding of some indigenous species (Danube salmon, grayling, nase) are conducted in the Fisheries Research Institute of Slovenia. The Marine Biology Station of the National Institute for Biology deals with interdisciplinary research of the sea.

    There is no institution setting research priorities in aquaculture in Slovenia. Specific projects are financed from various Government competitive grant funds provided mainly by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, but other ministries can also finance aquaculture related projects based on their potential applicability. Research activities concerned with marine fish are closely connected with international cooperation, but at the present time they only deal with fish biology.

    Non-government institutions and farmers are only exceptionally included in research activities. The same is the case with on-farm participatory research. The verification and transmission of research results is based mainly on personal contacts between experts and fish farmers. The small scope of aquaculture is also reflected in research.

    Advanced level training in aquaculture is not so well developed and only offered at the Biotechnical faculty for one semester during its BSc training programme. MSc and PhD programmes also exist, but in practice do not happen very often. Lower-level education in fisheries and aquaculture is offered as secondary education programmes. The farmers are thus more or less self-educated.
    Trends, issues and development
    There has been a dynamic change in the fish production sector due to economic changes in the period from the independence of Slovenia to its accession to the European Union and after the accession.

    By means of different state subsidies many existing fish farms have been reconstructed, new ones have been built and freshwater fish production has increased. In mariculture the decrease in shellfish production has been reversed and growth has been re-established. Sea fish breeding has begun and has been slowly increasing, although with some annual variations. Some progress has also been made in the organization of fish farming, in ensuring an adequate legislative and economic framework for aquaculture and fisheries, and in providing related legislative control tasks. In particular, in 2009, the status of marine mussel farms was defined through the granting of concessions for the use of marine water by the Ministry of Environment.

    For the freshwater aquaculture sector in Slovenia, the entry into the EU brought a more difficult situation due to the low prices of imported fish products from countries with more intensive aquaculture. Due to the specific situation of Slovenian aquaculture (small fish farms with smaller capacities), it has difficulties competing on the market and is thus more oriented towards local markets.

    Within the framework of the Common Fisheries Policy and through the Single Programming Document in the period 2004-2006, fish farms were modernised and renewed, in particular fish farms for farming cold-water fish. Within the framework of the European Fisheries Fund in the programming period 2007-2013, the measure called Productive investments in aquaculture has been implemented with respect to fish farms. This measure is continued in the future financial perspective 2014-2020 accompanied by other measures putting more emphasis on aqua-environmental measures. The funds have been so far mainly used to renew shellfish farms and facilities for marine aquaculture.

    In the future we intend to support also research projects such as: analysis of potential possibilities in fish farming development in Slovenia with regards to spatial and hydrological circumstances and research into the possibility of economic farming of new species. It is also reasonable to continue with investment in the modernization of older fish farms, especially the improvement of hygienic conditions and the construction of new fish farms which comply with EU legislation technologically and ecologically.

    Since there are no producers’ organisations in Slovenia, there are two promoters for the growth of aquaculture working within the Slovenian Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry. Their task is to help aquaculture operators through expert advice on the possibilities of setting up fish farms, as well as on the feeding of fish and prevention from diseases to those operators who already have fish farms.

    The strategic vision of Slovenian aquaculture is included into the National Strategic Plan for Fisheries Development in the Republic of Slovenia 2014-2020, which has been prepared in accordance with the relevant EU legislation. The vision aims at achieving high level of competitiveness of aquaculture on the domestic and European market by encouraging the use of methods that reduce the negative impact of aquaculture on environment and the development of new species with good marketing possibilities.
    Related links
    Environmental Agency

    Human Development Report

    Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food

    Ministry of the Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy

    Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia (SORS)
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