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Marine Finfish Production In France & Italy


Aquaculture in France has an important tradition and history. France was one of the pioneers in Europe in the development of research and technology which led to the growth of the industry in general.

France is the second largest producer in Europe with a total aquaculture production of 237 451 tonnes in 2007 and €545 million in value (Eurostat). The greatest part of French aquaculture is the production of shellfish (190 000 tonnes) and finfish (55 000 tonnes), of which marine aquaculture is the smallest part at 9.000 tonnes. It is estimated that the sector employs close to 20 000 people in 3 700 production sites.

Table 5 – France: Aquaculture production (tonnes)
2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Pond Fish 10000 10000 10000 10000 10000 10000
Trout 36330 39500 37220 34000 36000 34000
Total Freshwater Production 46330 49500
44000 46000 44000 Turbot 700 800 800 700 700 474 Meagre 0 200 300 300 200 206 Salmon 400 700 1200 1600 1800 1800 European Seabass 3500 4000 4300 5600 4800 4025 Gilthead seabream 1100 1600 1900 2200 1400 1660 Total Marine Production 5700 7300 10400 8900 8165 Total Aquaculture Production 52030 56800 54400 54900 52165

As far as freshwater production is concerned, France produces approximately 34000 tonnes of trout per year in 500 different farms and 6000 tonnes of carps. Most of the industry is made up of small farms with an annual production of less than 200 tonnes. Marine aquaculture in France has stagnated over the past 5 years due to the constraints on sites and the relatively higher cost of production of farms in relation to competition from Greece and Turkey. There are approximately 30 production units operating in France today. The marine aquaculture industry in France is still very fragmented with 40 individual companies occupying 46 production sites, including hatcheries and or on-growing units. There is only one company with an annual production of more than 1000 tonnes and two companies with a production between 500 and 1000 tonnes. No new production licences were issued in the past 15 years and competition for space with other users, mainly tourism, is fierce. For all that, the French industry has capitalized on its identity as a niche producer, emphasizing their attributes as a National producer with stringent safety and quality regulations. The perception of the national product is largely positive and valued over non-French products and it still exists, although the premium paid for French products has decreased somewhat over the past 10 years. The decrease over the past years has been due to improved marketing/promotion of foreign products as well as real improvements in quality of those products. There is really no upwards vertical integration in the industry except for the inclusion of hatcheries. There are no instances of common ownership of feed factories, cage and equipment suppliers etc. here are however some successful examples of downward integration to processing.

There are eight hatcheries operating in France, with an annual production of 34 420 million European seabass and 26 740 million gilthead seabream in 2007. Close to 70 percent of juveniles production is exported mainly to Greece and Spain.

Table 6 – France: Juvenile hatchery production (number of individuals)
2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
European seabass 29,000,000 28,000,000 33,000,000 36,000,000 34,420,000
Gilthead seabream 19,500,000 24,000,000 34,000,000 33,000,000 26,740,000
Turbot 5,200,000 4,236,000 1,880,000 1,000,000 1,040,000
Meagre 1,300,000 1,100,000 1,700,000 900,000 2,200,000
Total Juveniles Production 55,000,000 57,336,000 70,580,000 70,900,000 64,400,000


As in most Mediterranean countries, the aquaculture industry in Italy started with the traditional farming of freshwater species, namely trout. This sector is still the most important fish production sector with a production of 45 400 tonnes in 2007. Italy is the third largest aquaculture producer in Europe and among the GFCM countries with an annual production of 180 988 tonnes in 2007 (Eurostat).

Figure 15 – Italy: Aquaculture production

Source: MedAquaMarket national country report

The aquaculture sector contributes an average of 43 percent to the national fish production and 29 percent of revenues. The largest segment of aquaculture production in Italy is shellfish production, mainly mussels and clams. The annual production fluctuates around 170000 tonnes with employment of around 3347 full-time equivalent (FTE). The industry is characterized by fishing cooperatives and is highly vulnerable to environmental and climatic changes. From 190000 tonnes in 2002, production dropped to 125000 tonnes in 2003 and has only recovered to 175000 tonnes in 2007. Although production has not increased overall in the decade between 1997 and 2007, the value has doubled from 150.3 million euros to 306.5 million euros in the same period mainly due to the increase in the price of clams.

Freshwater aquaculture in Italy is characterized by traditional small to medium size companies that are often family-run. The estimated FTE employment in this sector is around 902 units. Since 1997 when the production peaked at 56100 tonnes, this sector has gradually decreased in production to 2007 levels of 45400 tonnes. However the value of production has increased over the last decade despite a decrease in volumes mainly due to the addition of value-added processing including, among other, filleting, pre-cooked, marinated, etc. The industrial culture of European seabass and gilthead seabream started in the late 1980s in land based facilities using the cooling water from state owned power plants. Entirely private companies entered the industry only in the early 1990s, also farming these species in land-based farms. The first sea cage based farms were established at the late 1990s. By 2007 the Italian production of European seabass and gilthead seabream reached 19700 tonnes with a sale value of 134 million euros. The technology level of Italian aquaculture farms is high both for land-based plants as well as sea cages. In order to be cost effective, densities in land based installations is high, between 30–50kg/m3 using almost entirely recycled water (up to 90 percent). Although the productivity of marine farms is lower, with densities between 18–30kg/m3, they are also characterized by a high degree of technological investment as they are mostly located offshore with both floating and submergible cages.

In 2006 there were a total of 715 aquaculture companies, including freshwater, marine and shellfish production, employing a total of 7764 people with a full-time equivalent of 5 250 units. There are 130 marine fish farms producing mostly European seabass and gilthead seabream (96 percent) with an estimated 926 full time equivalent employment. Italy is also an important producer of juveniles for the European seabass and gilthead seabream sector. The largest number of hatcheries is located in Veneto, followed by Puglia and Tuscany. The juveniles are mainly exported to Greece.

January 2011