Monday, 29 June 2020 07:38

The fisheries and aquaculture sector in Kazakhstan

EM3 20 KZ1Significant potential to be realised

This article was featured in EUROFISH Magazine 3 2020.

Capture fisheries production in Kazakhstan comes from the waters of the Caspian and Aral Seas, Balkhash, Zaysan lakes, Bukhtarma, Kapshagai, Shardara reservoirs, Alakol system of lakes and other ponds with a total area of over three million hectares. More than 70 fish species live here, including the most commercially valuable (zander, common carp, grass carp, silver carp, whitefish).

Fishing in Kazakhstan is carried out in inland waters (lakes and reservoirs), the rivers Ural and Kigach, and the coastal zone of the Caspian Sea. Currently, marine fishing in the Caspian is practically non-existent. Large water bodies are divided into many fishing areas, each of which is assigned for a period of 10 to 49 years to a specific tenant (user), who enters an agreement with the state for the rental of a reservoir (site) on certain conditions. The user must catch fish within the limits defined by the state (annual limits) and carry out stocking and maintenance of the reservoir. There are 20 bodies of water of international and national significance. They are divided into 364 sites, of which 236 are assigned to 129 users. The remaining 128 sites are not fixed. Of the 2,907 reservoirs of local importance, 1,410 reservoirs are assigned to 943 users, while 1,497 are not fixed. Capture fisheries is entirely small scale The official catch in Kazakhstan is 40-45 thousand tonnes of a scientifically estimated total allowable catch of 60 thousand tonnes. The catch limit for 2019 is 51.8 thousand tonnes. In the middle of the last century up to 100 thousand tonnes were caught, and indirect estimates show that the actual catch, including IUU catch, currently exceeds this figure. The current commercial fishing system in Kazakhstan is artisanal coastal fisheries, in FAO’s terminology “small-scale coastal fisheries by local communities.” Industrial fisheries which dominated during Soviet rule collapsed with the fall of the planned economy and the termination of the state’s fishing monopoly. The deterioration of fixed assets that had not been upgraded since Soviet times led to the disappearance of the fishing fleet and the closure of large fisheries. Specialised net fishing for commercially valuable species continues, but there has been a decrease in active fishing gear in all fisheries.

Dramatic increase in aquaculture production planned

EM3 20 KZ2EM3 20 KZ3Commercial fish farming is currently relatively underdeveloped. The volume of commercial fish farming under the Soviet regime reached 10 thousand tonnes, mainly due to pond and lake fish farming. In the 1990s, aquaculture production fell to almost zero. Currently, the state pays great attention to the development of aquaculture in the country. The state program for the development of the agroindustrial complex for 2017-2021 is projected to increase the production from aquaculture from 1.6 to 5 thousand tonnes by 2021. Today, 179 fish farms are engaged in the cultivation of marketable fish. These are divided into 99 lake-commodity fish farms, 55 pond farms, 5 cage fish farms, and 20 closed water supply installations and basin farms. In 2018, about 1,600 tonnes of fish were produced, according to the FAO. This was a slight increase over 2017 though less than the record 1,878 tonnes produced in 2016. The main species are sturgeon, trout, and carp, for which there exist proven breeding technologies. For the development of fish farming, state support is provided in terms of reimbursement of 25% of expenses for investments in the acquisition of machinery and equipment for fish farms and reimbursement of 30% of the cost of feed for fish when growing sturgeon, salmon and carp. Reproductive fish farming is much more developed in the country. In hatcheries, larvae of valuable fish species are obtained and raised to the stage of viable fingerlings for stocking natural water bodies. Each year, these enterprises receive 200-300 million fry of carp, whitefish, grass carp, silver carp. Also, two sturgeon hatcheries receive up to seven million sturgeon fry for stocking the Ural River and the Caspian Sea.

Trade is mostly in small pelagic species

The fisheries industry must ensure that its equipment for processing and transporting fish meets the necessary standards. The placement of fish processing facilities is traditionally tied to large fishing ponds. The bulk of fish processing occurs in the regions Atyrau, Almaty, East Kazakhstan and Kyzylorda. The capacity of 72 fish processing enterprises is 87 thousand tonnes per year, however, their workload does not exceed 43%. Main products are pike perch fillet, fresh-frozen, dried and smoked fish. When exporting to third countries (states that are not members of the Eurasian Economic Union), an export permit is required. Currently, Kazakhstan is included in the list of EU countries that are entitled to export fishing products to the EU. Eleven Kazakhstani fish processing enterprises have an “EU number,” which confers the right to export to the EU. According to FAO data, the largest export volume was observed in 2016, when 1,402 tonnes of fish and fish products were delivered to foreign markets with a value of USD3.6 million. In 2017, the latest year for which data are available, imports of fish and fishery products amounted to 3,917 tonnes valued at USD9.2 million, while exports were 1,145 tonnes worth USD3.1 million. The main exported products are prepared or preserved small pelagics (sardines, sardinella, brisling, spat), while the same group of species as well as prepared or preserved herring and mackerel, dominate imports.

Consumption is higher than officially estimated

EM3 20 KZ4According to the FAO, actual consumption in developing countries may be higher than stated as official statistics underestimate the contribution from fisheries for personal consumption and from some types of small-scale fisheries. Based on FAO data (production + imports – exports) Kazakhstan’s 18.2 million people consume about 1.9 kilograms per capita per year. However, actual fishing is significantly higher than official figures. In addition, Kazakhstan’s borders with other CIS countries are porous, so the actual extent of exports and imports are unknown. The Statistics Committee of the Republic of Kazakhstan when measuring consumption of fish and seafood products at home, estimates the average national household consumption at 10-11 kg per capita, which is significantly lower than in developed countries.

A number of challenges to overcome

The lack of a multiannual strategic plan prevents the systematic development of Kazakhstan’s fisheries and aquaculture sector. Currently, the Fisheries Development Programme 2020-2030 is being drafted. Apart from the lack of a strategy, the development of fisheries in Kazakhstan is hampered by a lack of investment, and a lack of large companies. Small fragmented fisheries are difficult to manage and control. As in other countries, illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Kazakhstan is one of the main challenges facing the industry, the resolution of which will require time and considerable efforts. At the same time, there is no mechanism for the control and regulation of recreational fishing, an activity practised on a significant scale. Obsolete technologies in aquaculture and fish processing, a lack of marketing and technological support for the industry, and outdated management systems are among the other factors that hinder the industry’s development. However, the scope for the sector’s development is also considerable thanks to the abundant water resources, variety of species produced, a large domestic market where current fish consumption is low, and proximity to potential export markets. By cracking down on grey markets in production and processing, introducing a traceability system for fish products, investing in fish promotion and marketing efforts, and freeing up the import of fish and seafood to expand the domestic market, Kazakhstan could increase per capita consumption of fish, contribute to public health, and create jobs in the sector.

Y.V. Kulikov, Senior Researcher;
S. Zh. Assylbekova, Deputy General Director
Fisheries Research and Production Center,
Republic of Kazakhstan


The Fisheries Research and Production Centre

Applied science for fisheries and aquaculture

The Fisheries Research and Production Centre (formerly KazNIIRH) is
the only specialised scientifi c institute for fi sheries and aquaculture
in Kazakhstan. The head office is in Almaty and it has six regional
branches. The services it provides include:

− Appraising reservoirs to determine their potential as fishing/aquaculture
− Developing recommendations and biological studies on stocking of
reservoirs and acclimatisation of commercial species of fish and
− Biological studies to determine the total allowable catch of fish;
− Assessment of damage to fisheries from economic activity;
− Advice on all matters related to hydrobiology, ichthyology, aquaculture
and fisheries;
− Elaborating ecological passports for fishing companies;
− Design documentation for hatcheries of various types (lake, pond,
cage farming, raceways, RAS);
− Assistance in the preparation of business-plans for hatcheries and