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An Overview Of Mediterranean Aquaculture

31 October 2011, at 12:00am

Speaking at Aquaculture Europe 2011, Savvsa Agrotis, Chairman of SAGRO Aqua took a look at how far Mediterranean aquaculture has come over the past 20 years. Charlotte Johnston, TheFishSite editor reports.

Aquaculture has been present on Mediterranean shores since ancient times. However it was only 20 years ago, in the early 1990's that intensive marine aquaculture took off.

"With 2.5 million kilometres squared of the Mediterranean ocean, the opportunities for aquaculture are endless," said Mr Agrotis. "The climate and ocean temperature offer ideal conditions."

Bass and bream are the main species farmed in the Mediterranean, chosen for their high value.

Initially progress was slow, a number of difficulties arose in the hatchery stage. The eggs are very small, explained Mr Agrotis. "A bream egg is 38 times smaller than a salmon egg.

"Because of this, it is very difficult to get the larvae to survive. There are many problems, including nutritional issues, deformities etc."

A number of research establishments focused on solving the issues surrounding larvae establishment - however the challenges faced slowed down the commercial growth of the bass and bream industry.

It wasn't until the early 1990's when clear larvae rearing practices were established to help producers. Previously producers were unsure what to feed larvae - and subsequently a lot of trials were carried out.

Tank surface skimming is now used in all Mediterranean hatcheries. Since this was introduced the quality of fingerlings has improved massively, with nearly 100 per cent of larvae hatched healthy.

Additional developments have helped address nutritional problems.

Initially fish were reared in seawater from seawater wells, however now more and more systems are using recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS).

Subsidies became available from the EU, encouraging investment and cushioning as well as speeding up profits.

Due to this, Mediterranean aquaculture production has increased substantially, and bass and bream have become available across the EU.

Opportunities

Greece, Turkey, Spain, Italy and Egypt are the top five aquaculture producers in the Mediterranean.

There is a current production volume of 270,000 tonnes.

Mr Agrotis said that there is enormous potential for Mediterranean aquaculture, if they want to satisfy even a small amount of EU future demand.

"It is an added bonus that for the first time aquaculture has become an integral part of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform."

He said that the intention seems to be to expand farmed fish production and research in this area, to compensate for a fall in capture fisheries.

"Further research into marine algae as a fishmeal replacement will prove to be interesting. To invest in future progress, we have to invest in research."

There are concerns regarding financial sustainability, with a lack of overall marketing from the industry. Although prices are currently strong, producers margins are still small, and with price fluctuations many struggle to make a profit.

"Many people are leaving the industry," said Mr Agrotis. "The current economic crisis is making it increasingly difficult for producers. It is almost impossible to get bank credit, which discourages investment and forward planning.

"This is happening at a time when global and EU demand for fish products is healthy and increasing."

A combined marketing effort is needed, said Mr Agrotis. "We need to ensure that our markets are protected against third world imports, through the continued use of regulations."

He said that recently there had been an increase in imports of bream and bass from Asia - where there were also good rearing conditions.

Speaking about the challenges facing the Mediterranean industry, Mr Agrotis said that climate change and water scarcity are of increasing concern. The industry must respect the environment in order to secure long term financial sustainability .

Concluding Mr Agrotis said that the industry needs to utilise the seas and oceans more productively, in order to cope with the coming population expansion.

November 2011

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