Benefits of locally farmed fish need to be promoted

Poland has many advantages in both extensive and intensive aquaculture. The country has the largest area of carp ponds and the greatest carp production potential in Europe; its fish-processing industry is one of the most developed and it has a well-developed education system for aquaculture and fisheries.

Ironically average annual fish consumption in Poland is among the lowest in Europe. In 2014, it was 12.3 kg per capita, almost 50% of the average per capita fish consumption in the EU. In 2014, consumption was 1.1% higher than in 2013, mainly the result of higher consumption of imported fish (pollock, salmon, and cod). The annual average consumption of carp, the leading aquacultural product, was 0.45 kg per person in 2012. Consumption of rainbow trout, another popular domestic species, was 0.42 kg per capita in 2012. Promotional campaigns targeting Polish consumers have been developed to support carp and trout sales.

Based on current consumption, Poland’s demand for fish and other aquatic organisms ranges between 451 and 570 thousand tonnes. In the past ten years, supply has not exceeded 270 thousand tonnes, indicating a significant need to increase production.

Fisheries, which are limited by quotas on target species, supply only 200 thousand tonnes annually, and aquaculture supplies only 30–36 thousand tonnes, offering an opportunity for growth. The lack of raw material hampers Poland’s fish processing industry, one of the most developed in Europe with an estimated capacity of at least 1 million tonnes, making it dependent on imports.


Source: FAO
Aquaculture production in Poland (tonnes)   
  2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Common carp 18,133 15,400 14,430 17,700 18,760
Rainbow trout 14,872 12,940 11,200 10,900 11,554
Freshwater fishes nei 860 162 1,000 620 1,880
Cyprinids nei 386 500 950 810 800
Sturgeons nei 148 170 241 334 440
Silver carp ... ... ... 400 365
Grass carp (=White amur) 419 579 522 419 350
Wels (=Som) catfish 214 200 220 220 300
North African catfish 1,100 650 124 302 203
Tench 205 ... 200 200 200
Nile tilapia ... ... ... 200 200
Northern pike 166 150 150 150 150
Euro-American crayfishes nei 6 6 6 6 6
Total 36,509 30,757 29,043 32,261 35,208

Fish farming has a 900-year-old history

The Polish aquaculture sector, has a long history in the country, having begun around the 12th century. It is carried out exclusively in land-based freshwater farms using traditional earth ponds in 2- or 3-year cycles, a system that is limited to a few Central and Eastern European countries. Aquaculture is part of the inland fishery sector and consists exclusively of the rearing and culture of freshwater fish, primarily carp (300 farms) and trout (160 farms). In addition to aquacultural activities, inland fisheries include commercial lake and river fisheries, as well as recreational angling in inland waters. In addition to the production of fish for consumption, Polish aquaculture produces stocking material for the various water bodies.

In 2014, total national aquaculture production reached 38,000 tonnes, an 8% increase over 2013. The largest category is carp production, which in 2014 amounted to 19,000 tonnes, more than 50% of total aquaculture output in 2014. The total registered area of carp farms in the country is approximately 70,000 hectares, the largest in Europe.

Rainbow trout is the second most important species in Polish aquaculture, with an output of 15,000 tonnes in 2014. Trout farming started to be developed at the end of 1990s, and production has stagnated in recent years. Trout production is carried out in intensive fish production facilities, located mostly on the Baltic Sea coast, and in the Carpathian foothills in the south.

Most aquaculture products are sold on the domestic market. The principal fish for export is rainbow trout: 17–24% of domestic production is exported, primarily to Germany. Nearly all of the trout exported is processed. Recently, Poland has started developing more intensive land-based aquaculture, and several investors have launched new businesses in the field of controlled breeding of marine or freshwater fish in indoor recirculation systems (trout, sturgeon, salmon, tilapia, and barramundi). The European Fisheries Fund (EFF) allocated EUR 734 million for projects in Poland in the period until 2020.

Recirculation systems are an intensive method of production. The Polish aquaculture strategy seeks to increase the supply from these systems to the fresh fish market and to the processing industry.


Processing industry exports all over Europe

The Polish fish processing industry is one of the largest in Europe. It supplies European countries with processed fish products such as smoked fish (salmon and trout), canned fish (herring, mackerel, and sprat), and ready-to-eat fish products (salads and fish in marinades). Other products include fresh and frozen cod fillets, ready-to-prepare frozen fish fillets (breaded fillets), freshwater and diadromous fish (pike-perch), and fresh and frozen whole fish (trout, sprat). In 2014, the overall output of the Polish fish processing industry amounted to 456,000 tonnes, worth EUR 1.9 billion.

There are 250 processing plants permitted to export to the EU and several hundred small, often family run companies, that can only sell products to regional markets, for example, small processing plants associated with certain fisheries. In 2014, the industry employed approximately 12,000 people.

In 2014, Poland imported 454,355 tonnes of fish and seafood for a value of EUR 1.8 billion. Norway was the main supplier of raw materials to Poland, while other significant partners include Denmark, China, the US, Germany, the Netherlands, and other countries. Poland is one of the biggest salmon importers in the world, supplied mostly by Norway, Sweden, and the US. In 2014, Poland imported mostly salmon, mackerel, cod, and haddock from Norway, cod from Denmark and Russia, and mackerel from the Netherlands. Although during the first five months of 2015 the volume of imports was at the same level as in the same period in 2014, the value of imports dropped 22% because of reduced import prices. In 2014, Polish exported EUR 1.3 billion worth of fish and seafood products, an 11% increase over the previous year. Major destinations for Polish seafood exports of fish are Germany (smoked salmon, cod, shrimp, clams), France (smoked salmon, snails), Denmark (sardine, sprats), Romania (herring), Sweden, Belarus, and Austria.


Major ambitions for the aquaculture sector

Poland’s overall objective for its aquaculture sector between 2014 and 2020 is to occupy a leading position in the EU in terms of fish from inland aquaculture, using both extensive and intensive methods of cultivation. The three objectives of extensive aquaculture are, maintaining the existing production area of ponds and their sustainability; increasing the profitability of pond farms; strengthening and popularising the environmentally and socially sustainable methods of carp cultivation. Extensive aquaculture production can be increased by properly designed public aid and the development of additional species. Avenues for further development include recreational fishing, agro-tourism, and the provision of specialised services, e.g. restoration, reclamation, and advisory services for fish farmers.

The objectives of intensive aquaculture are to increase the share of products from Polish intensive aquaculture in the growing domestic fresh fish market to at least 35%; and to double the supply of these products to the processing industry. Intensive aquaculture has great potential for development, based on existing facilities and the industry’s openness to change. Progress will require new technologies, solutions, and species, as well as private investment and co-financing provided by European and national financing instruments. It offers a great chance for Poland to expand this part of the sector and become Europe’s leading aquaculture producer.

Poland aims to occupy a leading position in the EU in terms of aquaculture production by 2020 using both intensive and extensive means of cultivation.


New species to play an important role in development plans for sector

Species with important market potential will become more significant, including eel, perch-pike, catfish, and burbot, and various non-indigenous species that can be farmed in the controlled environment of ponds or in basins as part of closed circulation systems, such as tilapia, African catfish, and sturgeon. Aquaponic systems will also come into play. Focus will be put on aquaculture of marine species and euryhalines (fish tolerating a range of salinities) of high market value (e.g. turbot, salmonids, sturgeon, and eel) in facilities located inland using seawater or naturally salty geothermal water. Moving away from land, the potential of sea farming near offshore wind turbines will be investigated. The development of the aquaculture sector will also be supported by promoting the consumption of farmed fish and by diversifying the activities of small farming companies. In addition the sector will benefit greatly from closer cooperation with research bodies, educational institutions and the administration to meet the demands from the Polish and foreign markets.

William Anthony