Population: 60.6 million (2016, Eurostat)
GDP: €1.66 billion (2015, Eurostat)
GPD/capita €27,600 (2016, Eurostat)
Overview of the Italian fisheries and aquaculture sector
Italy's coastline spans 9,136 km, making up 8.75 % of the total EU coastline. The surface of the coastal regions, in line with the Eurostat definition, is 181,289 km², approximately 10 % of the EU total and 60 % of the national territory. Although the fishery sector´s contribution to the national GDP remains limited overall at less than 0.3 % of Italy´s GDP, it is more significant in certain regions, particularly the south.
Fishing in Italy takes place along the entire coastline. In 2015, national catches accounted for 191,700 tonnes. The size of the Italian fleet has decreased steadily to 12,325 fishing vessels in 2015, compared to 17,367 vessels in 2000. The fleet is highly diversified with a broad range of vessel types targeting different species, predominantly in the Mediterranean Sea. The largest segment within the fleet is small-scale fishing vessels (8,763 vessels), followed by trawlers (2,542 vessels), and hydraulic dredges (706).
The regions Sicily and Sardinia have the highest share of the fleet. The fishing fleet is divided into coastal, Mediterranean, and overseas vessels which fish beyond the Mediterranean Straits. In general, however, small-scale, or artisanal fishing refers to fishing boats less than 12 metres in length, which use passive gears and involve day trips made by a minimal crew of one or two fishermen. The gear most commonly used are: surrounding nets, bottom trawl nets of different dimensions, midwater trawlers (volanti), dredges (turbosoffiante), and trammel nets. Traps and longlines are used by the small-scale fisheries fleet, including drifting long lines which are widely used today to catch large-pelagic fish.
As the Italian fleet capacity decreased significantly in recent years, so too did marine catches, by about 44 % between 2006 and 2014.
The main species are small pelagics – anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus) and sardine (Sardina pilchardus). Among demersal fish, the most abundant species landed are hake (Merluccius merluccius) and red mullet (Mullus barbatus). An important portion of total Italian landings is cephalopods, comprising cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis), octopus (Octopus vulgaris), and horned octopus (Eledone cirrhosa). The deepwater rose shrimp (Parapenaeus longirostris) and the spottail mantis shrimp (Squilla mantis) are the most important crustaceans landed. Among large pelagics, the main species landed are bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus), albacore (Thunnus alalunga) and swordfish (Xiphias gladius). Anchovy, clams and sardines are the three main species landed by the Italian fleet. The catch composition of marine fisheries is very heterogeneous, reflecting both the different gears in use, various fishing grounds, and the high biodiversity of aquatic resources.
Aquaculture in Italy is based on a long tradition and history. It is characterized by a high level of specialization and large-scale production. Out of 30 species, production is dominated by Mediterranean mussel, Japanese carpet shell, and rainbow trout. Italy is the main producer of Japanese carpet shell in Europe. European seabass and gilthead seabream are the major marine farmed finfish species.
Traditional extensive aquaculture is still carried out in the “valli”, which are brackish lagoons - especially in the north-eastern regions. More modern aquaculture techniques for marine species include onshore intensive farms, cage systems in the sea (mariculture) and in the case of shellfish, cultivation on ropes and bags (mussels) or directly on the intertidal substrate (clams). Aquaculture is developed along all Italian coasts, with higher density along the Adriatic coasts.
High levels of specialization and know-how, high degrees of industrialization and large‐scale organization are key features of the Italian aquaculture sector structure. The Italian aquaculture sector comprises both marine and freshwater farming. While marine aquaculture includes both shellfish (mussels and clams) and finfish, freshwater aquaculture mainly consists of trout farmed in raceways.
In 2014, the total output of the Italian aquaculture sector amounted to 149,000 tonnes. Shellfish producing companies account for over 50 % of the total number of farms and contribute to 63 % of total aquaculture production.
In the shellfish sector, blue mussels (96,000 tonnes) and cross-cut carpet shell (30,000 tonnes) are the main species. Finfish farming is divided into freshwater fish species and marine species. Production of the marine farmed fish amounts to 28,100 tonnes, where seabream (9,400 tonnes) and seabass (7,900 tonnes) are the main farmed species.
In the freshwater fish segment, there were 311 registered farms in 2013, located primarily in the north and central regions of Italy. The output of freshwater farmed fish amounts to 40,700 tonnes, of which rainbow trout (37,800 tonnes) has the major share, followed by sturgeon (1,700 tonnes) and European eel (1,200 tonnes).
The national aquaculture sector is dominated by small enterprises with less than 5 employees. Total employment in the aquaculture sector comprises 5,164 persons, of whom 1,937 hold full time positions. Full-time employment is about 38 % of the total employment in the Italian aquaculture sector, highlighting the importance of seasonal work. The shellfish sector is the most important, accounting for 3,774 persons employed, equal to 74 % of the total work force. Male employment is predominant in the national aquaculture sector with about 84 % male employees.
Processing and trade
The canning sector is the main segment of the Italian fish processing industry. The main products are canned and preserved tunas, for which the industry is heavily dependent on imports, although there are also a significant number of companies that process anchovies, sardines and shellfish.
Italy is one of the largest markets for fisheries and aquaculture products in Europe, and the country covers its domestic consumer demand through imports. It is the sixth largest market for imported fish and seafood in the world, and the third largest among the European Union (EU) countries behind France and Spain. The total imports of fisheries and aquaculture products reached 1.102 million tonnes with a value of €5.034 billion in 2015, while its exports reached 193,000 tonnes with a value of €744 million.
For export destinations, Spain (18 %), Germany (12 %), and France (10 %) received half of Italian export volumes of fisheries and aquaculture products in 2015. The UK (5 %) and Greece (5 %) were other important markets for Italian fisheries and aquaculture products. Exports of live or fresh fish and seafood mainly comprise blue mussels, anchovies, sardines, and trout. In the group of value-added products, prepared or canned tuna was the dominant product, followed by frozen sardines, anchovy’s fillets in oil, salted anchovies, and frozen shrimps.
Imports of fish and seafood into Italy has been 8 times higher than exports during recent years. A major part of imports is represented by value added fish and seafood products. Spain is the main supplying country of fisheries and aquaculture products for the Italian market with a 21 % share of total imports in 2014. Another 7 % of Italian imports are traded though the Netherlands. Imported value added fish and seafood were mainly prepared / canned tuna, frozen squid, octopus, and tuna steaks. Of the imported live and fresh fish and seafood, the main species were blue mussels, bream, seabass, squid, shrimps, oysters, and swordfish.
Italian inhabitants consume an average of about 28.9 kg per capita of fisheries products each year (live weight equivalent), placing Italy slightly above the EU-28 average consumption level of 25.5 kg per capita. Based on calculations of the supply balance and the total apparent consumption of fisheries and aquaculture products, the average annual apparent per capita consumption was generally stable from 2010–2014 with a slight decrease of 5 %.
The EMFF operational program 2014–2020 aims to ensure that fishing capacity and available fishing opportunities are better balanced, and to strengthen the competitiveness and profitability of fishing enterprises. In aquaculture, the main aim is to promote environmentally sustainable aquaculture development, with a focus on organic production and the competitiveness and profitability of aquaculture enterprises through supporting product innovation and processes, as well as the creation of a hatcheries consortium. Low levels of domestic aquaculture internationalization, low diversification of domestic aquaculture products and activities, and a lack of financial tools for new investments are currently some of the main challenges.
A key challenge in the processing industry is enhancing the role of producer organisations (POs) by developing collective actions and supporting a process of rationalizing for the national territory with a focus on the added value that POs can bring to the supply chain.
Useful Links for Italy
- Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies
- Italian Coast Guard
- National Fisheries Assosiation - Federcoopesca
- Associazione Generale Cooperative della Pesca
- Association of Italian Aquaculture Produced
- Institute of Agriculture and Food Research ISMEA
- Fisheries and Aquaculture Economic Research (NISEA)
- The National Research Council (CNR)
- National Institute of Statistics
- Italian Society in Marine Biology
- Inter-universitiy's Center for Marine Biology (CIBM), Livorno