Increase in production from closed circulation systems

Lithuania’s fishery and aquaculture sector makes up less than 0.5% of its GDP, but the sector will see steady growth in coming years. Pond fish farming is the predominant form of aquaculture, but the increasing implementation of closed aquaculture systems (CAS), as well growing numbers of small and medium enterprises, will help create jobs, especially in the rural areas.

 

 

Source: FAO
Aquaculture production in Lithuania (tonnes)   
  2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Common carp 3,222 2,936 3,061 3,257 3,751
Sturgeons nei 9 17 52 55 116
Rainbow trout ... 0 0 115 115
Other 191 236 167 155 229
Total 3,422 3,191 3,280 3,582 4,211

The consumption of fish and fishery products, 17,2 kg/person/year, is growing, but it is still below the EU average. Consumption as well as local production will therefore be increasingly promoted. Companies active in the aquaculture sector belong to the small and medium enterprises (SME) category, ordinarily employing up to 50 people; only two companies have more than 50 employees. Companies using CAS are mostly very small, with up to 10 employees. In 2014, 23 companies were engaged in pond farming, 14 companies were using CAS, and two companies were growing fish in cages.

Pond farmers are starting to diversify production

Pond aquaculture, where common carp farming predominates, is the most widespread form of aquaculture in Lithuania. In 2013, aquaculture ponds covered 9,372 ha (about 52% of this area has been certified for organic production). Ponds are used almost entirely for common and bighead carp production, which amounts to about 95% of the total pond production, but species such as pike, tench, sturgeon, and others are also cultivated. About 60% of the farmed fish is sold on the domestic market, and the remainder is exported to Ireland, Latvia, Sweden, and Estonia.

Aquaculture ponds supply nearly all (97.6%) of the aquaculture sector’s production. In 2013, aquaculture ponds produced and marketed about 4,110 tonnes of fish. In 2013, the value of production from ponds was about EUR 9.60 million, approximately 96.4% of the value of the production by the entire sector. The main production is in warm- and cold-water fish ponds. Warm-water ponds are used for breeding carp. Lithuania’s environmental conditions dictate that three years are needed to produce carp to a marketable size. Trout and whitefish are farmed in cold water systems.

Pond aquaculture will continue to develop by tapping unexploited production potential and through product diversification by increasing the production of valuable fish species. The development of new fish ponds is unlikely because existing ponds have not yet reached the limits of productivity (1,500 kg/ha in stocking ponds), and some ponds are abandoned.

 

Closed circulation systems are increasing in number in Lithuania. They use less water and it is easier to control all the parameters, temperature, oxygen, etc. precisely. The system pictured is at the Zaimena hatchery, where fish are bred for restocking.

Organic aquaculture products cannot claim a premium on the market

In 2013, the volume of organic aquaculture production from aquaculture ponds was about 1,405 tonnes, accounting for about 33.4% of all aquaculture production; its value was about EUR 3.01 million, accounting for about 30.3% of the total value of aquaculture production. In the period 2010–2013, the volume of organic production increased by 49%, and its value increased by 62.6%. The existing marketing system and insufficient demand for organic produce do not allow it to be marketed at prices higher than conventional produce.

 

Increasing interest in closed system aquaculture

Closed system aquaculture supplied about 99 tonnes of fish, although this is an 11-fold increase since 2010. In 2013, the value of marketed aquaculture production from CAS totalled around EUR 0.36 million. CAS have a total capacity of 2,102 cubic metres. So far, CAS have been a novelty in the Lithuanian aquaculture sector. Only in recent years has the implementation become more widespread. Compared with pond aquaculture, it is much simpler to start CAS aquaculture production because it requires less water and a smaller land area.

This segment developed slowly on its own. Only after the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) began supporting CAS schemes was an increase in the number of companies implementing CAS noted. At the beginning of 2014, 20 companies received support for the introduction of CAS, and the support for technical development totalled around EUR 6.08 million. Clearer performance indicators of the companies can only be expected in two to three years. Stable results will most likely be available only in five to seven years, when the companies will have acquired some experience in fish farming and marketing. Currently, the main species raised in CAS are trout, eel, and African sharptooth catfish.

In 2013, common carp accounted for about 89% of the total volume of aquaculture production and around 80% of its total value. Other major fish species marketed in 2013 included sturgeon (about 2.8% of the volume and 7% of the production value of the entire sector) and trout (about 2.7% and 3.9%, respectively). In the period 2010–2013, sales of sturgeon and trout have seen the greatest increases. Both the volume of sturgeon sold, and its value increased about 7-fold, whereas the increases for trout were 3-fold (both volume and value). In 2012 and 2013, Lithuanian aquaculture companies began marketing African catfish, which is the most popular type of fish to be farmed in new CAS.

 

Pond farming is the most common form of aquaculture production and is used primarily to cultivate carp.

Exports dominated by carp sold to neighbouring countries

In the period 2010–2013, exports of aquaculture production fell both in terms of volume and value. Lithuanian produce was largely exported to neighbouring countries: Latvia (approximately 32.8% of total production in 2013) and Poland (about 61.5% of production in 2013). In the same period, exports of organic aquaculture products rose by about 58%, to 401 tonnes. In 2013, common carp exports constituted most of the aquaculture production sold abroad: around 91.7% of the total aquaculture production and around 78% of the total value of aquaculture production.

Recently, sturgeon exports have increased significantly; the amount increased 19-fold, and value increased approximately 24-fold. Accordingly, in 2013, the exports of sturgeon constituted almost a fifth of the overall exports value. Eel is also in demand on foreign markets: In 2013, eel exports reached about 1.2% of the value of total aquaculture exports. That year, around 90% of sturgeon and about 60% of eel produced in Lithuania were exported. Recent years’ production and financial results of Lithuanian pond aquaculture show that the operations have been profitable, and that they have been successful in expanding the volume of production. Over a period of nine years, fish production more than doubled and the revenue grew even faster.

Farmed fish production in Lithuania

 

Lithuania’s 40 fish processing enterprises are all certified to export to the EU. Six of them are certified to export to the Russian market. Given its coastal location, Klaipeda is home to most of the country’s 40 fish processing companies, but plants can be found across the country. The main species, herring, cod, and salmon, are processed into a variety of products including frozen, dried, smoked, and canned fish. A wide selection of surimi and culinary products is also produced. In 2012, production reached 82,000 tonnes, of which 29% was surimi products, 17% fish fillets, and 20% smoked fish. Approximately 90% of the raw material is imported, and most of the production is exported.

 

Strategies to strengthen production, increase competitiveness 

The Lithuanian Aquaculture Sector Development Plan for 2014–20 establishes the aquaculture sector’s goals, strategies, and tasks to ensure its planned development. The first operational strategy is to use and strengthen existing production and expand the variety of products by implementing environmentally friendly technologies. This will include developing the potential of aquaculture companies, expanding the variety of products, using new, environmentally friendly technologies, and upgrading the technical infrastructure of aquaculture undertakings. It will support new, specialised as well as existing companies, prioritising the farming of rainbow trout and sturgeon.

The second operational strategy is to increase the competitiveness of the aquaculture sector by developing and implementing technologies that result in products that are in highest demand on the market, and by stimulating exports. Finally, the third operational strategy is to create services necessary for the aquaculture sector and improving and sharing knowledge and practices.

William Anthony