Thursday, 20 August 2020 08:58

Fish breeding in Armenia

EM4 20 ArmeniaSuccessful transition from carps to high-value species

This article was featured in EUROFISH Magazine 4 / 2020

Armenia has favorable climatic conditions for the commercial breeding and growing of species of trout (Salmonidae) and sturgeon (Acipenseridae). The country’s rich resources of subterranean water and its suitable climate enable the commercial production of these fi sh all the year round.

The potential of the fishing sector has been recognized by private companies who have contributed to developing the industry. Their efforts have meant that Armenia today has a large number of companies with extensive experience in the production of fish and efficient management skills.


Fish farming contributes to the wellbeing of remote communities

At present, 17-18 tonnes of commercial fish are produced in the country, the bulk of which is the golden trout—Salmo ischchan. The fish is in high demand in the Russian Federation and other countries thanks to its high quality and about 20% of the production is exported. Fish farming contributes to the efficient use of water resources, increases the production of farmed fish, and provides hundreds of families in remote mountain communities with a livelihood. It is therefore important that the regulatory framework supports the development of the sector. Fish farming in the Republic of Armenia has been pursued for decades. In the 1920s the first fish breeding farms were set up in Karchaghbyur and Gavar to produce Sevan trout for consumption and restocking. Later, fish farms were established in Sevan and Lichq village of Sevan region. Each year these farms released 7m trout, more than 100m khramulya (Varicorhinus capoeta sevangi), and more than 20m whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) larvae and fingerlings into Lake Sevan. The next stage of development in the fish industry started in the 70s when commercial fish farming expanded. Several big fish farms were established that used the water resources and wetlands of the Ararat valley. Apart from herbivorous fishes, golden trout and red-finned-fish (karmrakhayt) were also bred for commercial purposes. In the 1980s the water surface of fish farms in Armash and Sis communities of Ararat province and Yeghegnut community of Armavir province constituted around 6,000 ha and the annual production of commercial fish (common carp, Cyprinus carpio, and other carps) amounted to 5,000 tons. At the same time, fish farms in Taronik village of Ararat valley cultivated almost 100 tonnes of golden trout. Production of salmonids and sturgeons overtakes that of carps The third stage of fish industry development in Armenia started at the end of the 20th century. Investments by companies led to the creation of a number of big and efficient fish farms. Apart from grow out ponds, some of these companies established hatcheries, fish processing facilities, and sales and distribution networks within the country and abroad. Currently, frozen and processed fish and caviar are exported to the United States, Georgia, Russian Federation, Ukraine, and several countries in the Middle East, among others. The last years have seen rapid growth in the production of high-value fish, trout and sturgeon species. Of the roughly 17 thousand tonnes of fish produced in Armenia, 65-70& are species of trout and sturgeon. The main fish species commercially produced in Armenia are, Sevan summer trout (Salmo ischchan aestivalis), Gegarkuni (Salmo ischchan gegarkuni), golden trout, red-finned-fish (karmrakhayt), sturgeons and common carp, silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), and white (Ctenopharyngodon idella) and black (Mylopharyngodon piceus) amur. Today, within the industry, there is a higher degree of cooperation than in the past. For example, smaller fish farms work together or have contracts with large companies that supply fry and feed and buy the market-sized fish. Over the last decade the range of species cultivated has become wider, and the structure of production in the country has changed dramatically. In the past, 90% of the farmed fish comprised common carp and other carp species, while golden trout was produced in small quantities. Today, this ratio has changed in favour of valuable salmonid and sturgeon species. Altogether some 40 species and sub-species of fish can be found in natural and artificial water resources, of which 15 are used for commercial purposes. Four fifths of fish farms are in just two provinces Fish species that are not endemic to Armenia such as white and black amur, silver carp, Japanese carp (koi), African catfish, Siberian and Russian sturgeon are successfully bred for commercial purposes. These together with the salmonids (golden trout, Gegarkuni, golden trout, red-finned-fish (karmrakhayt)) constitute almost 70% of the production of commercial fish in Armenia. At present there are 180 fish farms in the country of which 83% are in the Armavir and Ararat provinces. A programme to restore trout reserves in Lake Sevan to enable the sustainable exploitation of the fish was established in 2014. A company associated with the programme, Sevan Trout, processes the fish into a wide range of products including freshly frozen fish, fillets, and cans, which are sold under the brands Nairyan and Sevan Ishkhan.

Levon Ter-Isahakyan, Tigran Aleksanyan, Ministry of Economy, Armenia