The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) released a study highlighting that the boom in aquaculture and seafood trade experienced in recent years in the Black Sea region is being threatened by the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The war may hinder this growth and threatens to disrupt seafood trade and supply chains in the region.

Aquaculture production in the Black Sea region has grown steadily in recent years, from around 500 000 tonnes of farmed seafood (mainly salmonids, carp and European seabass) in 2017 to over 700 000 tonnes in 2019, according to the GFCM study, ‘Black Sea Aquaculture Market: country profiles is the most authoritative study on aquaculture in the region’.

The published research reports on trends in seafood production and trade from fish farms in the six Black Sea countries between 2015 and 2019. The report has been prepared in collaboration with Eurofish and with the support of the European Union (EU).

Aquaculture has grown in the Black Sea region, helping to boost food security and providing jobs and income to many vulnerable rural communities. But the sector is fragile and susceptible to shocks, especially as small- and medium-scale farmers account for the majority of farmed seafood producers in the region,” detailed Houssam Hamza, GFCM aquaculture officer and lead author of the study.

According to the specialist, the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation is already affecting supply chains and prices; and aquaculture farmers in the region are finding it difficult to buy fish feed or feed ingredients and fingerlings to keep their farms running. “The farmed seafood trade will also face challenges,” Hamza added.

Different experiences

Russia is the region’s largest seafood exporter, both farmed and caught, with exports of nearly 1.8 million tons in 2019, worth more than USD 4.6 billion. But in Georgia, for example, fisheries and aquaculture only supply between 10% and 15% of the country’s seafood consumption, making the country dependent on imports.

In Bulgaria, meanwhile, registered aquaculture farms account for only 4%, but mariculture – with species such as farmed mussels – has grown to 30% of total aquaculture production. In Turkey, aquaculture production has increased by more than 50% between 2015 and 2019.

In Romania, on the other hand, aquaculture supplies more than 11% of seafood consumption, and several fish farms have expanded to include services such as eco-tourism and recreational fishing, which has increased the sources of income for aquaculturists.

Meanwhile, Ukraine produces an average of 20,000 tons of farmed fish per year, with more than 4,000 registered fish farms. Most are small farms with less than 30 tons of annual production, farming mainly carp, catfish, pike and trout.

Ukraine’s seafood exports (farmed, caught and imported and then processed and exported) have been increasing – from around 5,000 tons in 2015, worth USD 20 million, to 11,800 tons in 2019, worth over USD 46 million.

In 2019, the main destinations for Ukraine’s seafood exports included EU countries, Moldova, Belarus, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Israel, Taiwan and Turkey, among others.

The most authoritative study about the area

In recent years, aquaculture has become an increasingly important part of the Black Sea economy. It supplies nutritious food, boosts the local economy and provides jobs for coastal and rural communities. Both freshwater aquaculture and mariculture are practiced, although mariculture remains underdeveloped in most countries in the region.

The report is already considered the most authoritative study on the aquaculture situation in the area and on the commercial and production trends of farmed aquatic products in the six countries bordering the Black Sea between 2015 and 2019.

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