By Eva A. Kyriakopoulou*
With different types of cultivation disappearing and reappearing through the ages, the promotion of the practice of cultivating aquatic species has led to the modern type of fish farming: extensive, large scale aquaculture with the use of cages is the dominant type of fish cultivation in the sector.
The countries that account for the Mediterranean and Black Sea’s highest production rates have farms that are structured likewise. These countries are, in alphabetical order, Albania, Algeria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Syria, Tunisia and of course Turkey. The plethora of countries that take part in this practice are in some ways responsible for the variety of issues that occur in the sector and affect its not-so smooth functionality, which could be considered as understandable.
At this point I reckon that it would be redundant to refer to or try to analyze the reasons that make the Aquaculture sector of immense importance for the aforementioned countries, both from an economic and a social standpoint, though this is partially explained by the continuous rise of global demand. Though I consider myself to be relatively new in this field, I think it would be more useful to try and list the priority issues that need to be addressed in order to proceed to a more sustainable development of Aquaculture in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. These issues already exist or are emerging and their importance is among the biggest considerations for the future of Mediterranean aquaculture as a whole.
Despite its undoubted success, the aquaculture industry in the greater Mediterranean and Black Sea area has faced cycles of alternate positive and negative phases, as well as disproportionate swings in margins and production volume. Producers are currently on the look for development of new production species in order to broaden the range of products they can offer to customers. However, till this day, most of these experimental species are still in the pilot stage.
But this imperative need for expansion has been raising several country-specific concerns combining economic, environmental and social aspects, which could put the sustainability of the sector at stake. In this regard, and bearing in mind all the differences concerning cultural, socio-economic and legislative aspects which are exceptional to each Mediterranean and Black Sea region, a series of issues has been determined. These challenges need to be properly addressed in order to respond to the sustainability of the industry in an effective way in.
The following points are a summary of the main concerns:
• Necessity for a better definition and regional harmonization of aquaculture legal frameworks and procedural aspects in complex institutional settings.
• Environmental and social concerns call for a rapid integration of aquaculture in coastal zone management and maritime policies.
• Adoption of allocated zones for Aquaculture in order to minimize space limiting factors, administrative and local conflicts.
• Implementation of a sector marketing strategy in order to better pursue price stability, exploitation of emerging markets, increased domestic consumption, improvement of the public image of the sector and an overall increase in the industry’s competitiveness.
• Development of tools which will be used to collect data in real time and help monitor, assess and forecast both production and production capacity.
• Meticulous logging of the marketing tools used to promote aquaculture products and consequently of the competition with imported farmed products.
• Improvement of regional aquaculture biosecurity regarding fish diseases and aquatic animal health management.
Promotion of responsible use of drugs and vaccines, and adoption of risk assessment as a management tool in order to be used as a disease prevention base.
• Technical capacitation of staff on the main priorities and challenges for sustainable aquaculture development.
• Introduction and incorporation of certification and traceability systems.
• Improvement of institutional and scientific cooperation, including knowledge and data sharing in order to advance and support procedures.
• Increase market opportunities by applying R&D to production technology, new species and diversified production simulation models.
• Advocate the conservation of traditional aquaculture, with applications focusing on extensive aquaculture and lagoon management. Combine technology with the traditional knowledge of coastal communities.
• Development of a regional strategy with the collaboration of farmers’ and producers’ organizations.
• Raise awareness on threats brought by the changing climate. Acknowledge the vulnerability of the aquaculture sector and develop potential adaptation and mitigation plans to cope with climate change related issues.
• Strengthening of regional aquaculture governance.
• Summarizing, the Mediterranean fish farming sector and its significant development have presented noteworthy results, not only regarding the production of fresh, cheap and high quality fish, but also the generation of socio-economic structures that involve, both directly and indirectly, thousands of people, particularly in the fisheries-dependent areas of the region. It is obvious that the prosperity of the sector is significant and prominent, as well as highly dependent on the legal framework under which it operates, which makes the measures to be adopted even more significant.
Eva A. Kyriakopoulou is an Oceanographer - Ichthyologist from Greece. She comes from a seafaring family and the sea has always been her great passion. She graduated from the department of Marine Sciences of the University of the Aegean, in Lesvos island and she immediately started working for Andromeda S.A., one of the biggest sea-farming corporations in the Mediterranean. She is currently stationed in Preveza, eastern Greece.