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Romania’s fish farming industry used to hold pride of place during the communist regime
Romania’s fish farming was 3rd placed around the world, following the former USSR and the then German Democratic Republic. As early as the 1960s, Romania had a vast deep sea fishing fleet, with tens of vessels sailing across the oceans of the world bringing back to the country Atlantic horse mackerel, mackerel, sardine, cod and herring.
A 6,000-strong personnel worked on those ships. Also at that time, Romania exploited around 90 percent of the 500,000 hectares of water surface, for fish farming purpose, to which 76,000 kilometers of rivers were added, as well as 1,075 kilometers on the river Danube. The fish harvested on the inner rivers on a yearly basis stood at more than 150,000 tons, to which 150 thousand tons of saltwater fish were added.
A great deal of this production was sold fresh, but large quantities were also provided to fish canning factories in Galati, Tulcea, Sulina and Constanta in eastern Romania. So the domestic consumption of fish was assured, while roughly 100 thousand tons were exported every year.
Twenty five years on, Romania’s fish production plummeted to less than eleven tons a year, accounting for 8 % of its consumption, although Romania boasts the EU’s largest hydrographic network with more than 8,000 kilometers of rivers including the Danube as well as access to the oceans, through the Black Sea. Here is now the president of the Romanian Association of Fish Processors, Importers, Exporters and Merchants Marian Cuzdrioreanu with more on the issue.
Marian Cuzdrioreanu: “Romania used to harvest a lot more fish from its waters before World War Two. Around the 1920s and the 1930s Romania had somewhere around 1,800,000 hectares of water surface. We used to be Europe’s number one fish farmer. However, with the advent of communism, waters were drained and were then used for land-farming purposes. The country’s need of fish was much higher during communism standing at around 8-10 kilos, but a great part of it came from deep-sea fishing. We had a fleet that was Europe’s 3rd and the world’s 10th in terms of size. We managed not only to simply cover Romania’s domestic consumption but we also exported fish back then. Unfortunately we no longer rely on that fleet at present and instead of exporting we have to import fish. Romania presently covers 10-15% of its consumption whereas the remaining quantity is imported; consumption has dropped to half, 4 - 5 kilos per capita. In the absence of a proper fleet we can no longer fish in the oceans. We are missing the famous Polar ships fitted with the right equipment so that fish was professionally cut and processed on board. I have been into fish farming for 27 years now and I know that you get best-quality fish when you’ve processed it as soon as the fish was caught. So those Polar ships we had were properly equipped fishing vessels, some sort of floating processing factories. “
Fish farming facilities have in recent years developed in almost all counties across Romania. There are more than 84,000 fish breeding units, 300 fish farms and roughly 60 trout farms with a surface area of 44 hectares. The structure of the aquaculture production is dominated by the cyprinids (tench, crucian, carp, bream). However, in the fish nurseries and fish breeding farms we also find trout, pike-perch, pike, perch, waller, sturgeons. Wit details on that, here is Marian Cuzdrioreanu once again.
Marian Cuzdrioreanu: ”Romania is home to 7 important cyprinids species; they include, much to everyone’s surprise, more than 2,000 species from all over the world. But the most important species are the common carp, typical for aquaculture and its other derivatives, the silver carp and the bighead carp…We export very seldom, but we process sea snails from the Black Sea, which is an invasive species of snails that after World War Two got stuck to ships’ careens and, because they adapted to the structure and fauna of the Black Sea, they settled here. The quantities are not very large, but they go to Asia, Korea, Japan. As regards fish, we don’t have enough so that we may export it.”
The Atlantic salmon and the mackerel are the Romanians’ most favored fish, while the sales of the two species increased by 5% as compared to 2016, according to data provided by a survey carried by one of Romania’s leading fish producer importers and distributors.
The study also reveals the Romanians have become interested in seafood, with the seafood market last year reaching around 35 million Euros and being likely to grow by 5% this year. What Romanians love best are the shrimps, mussels, squids and octopuses. The annual market value for fish produce and seafood stands at 350 million Euros.
Over 2014-2020, the Operational Fish and Maritime Business program offers European funds for those interested in aquaculture, worth 170 million Euro. However, the limited number of fish vessels in the Black Sea, the lack of fish harbors, the lack of an ocean fish fleet and the shortage of fish processing capabilities, all that has rendered Romania import-dependent, despite its huge unexploited potential.
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