Population: 19.5 million (2018, Eurostat)
GDP: €188 billion (2017, Eurostat)
GDP/capita €9 600 (2017, Eurostat)
Overview of the Romanian fisheries and aquaculture sector
Marine fisheries sector
Situated in south-east Europe, Romania has a coastline 256 km long, which represents 5.3% of the total Black Sea coastline and 0.5% of the total coastline of the 23 EU coastal Member States. Around 900 000 people, or 4.5% of Romania's total population, live in coastal areas.
Marine fishing is exclusively in Romanian territorial waters in the Black Sea. The sector employs 757 fishermen. The national fishing fleet is largely small-scale, i.e. vessels less than 12 metres in length. Romania had 155 registered vessels in 2017, with the overwhelming majority (131) being less than 12 meters. Only 5 vessels are between 18 and 29 meters. In 2017, marine catches and landings totaled 9 553 tonnes due to the increased demand for rapana, which totaled 9 244 tonnes. The fleet targets small pelagic species, such as European anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus) and European sprat (Sprattus sprattus). In addition, it catches flatfish (turbot (Psetta maxima)), some shark / dogfish. In fact, taking out the sea snail from the total marine catch, only 309 tonnes of other seafood is caught in the marine sector.
European sprat and turbot are subject to TAC’s (Total Allowable Catches). In 2019, the quota for sprat was 3 442 tonnes while the quota for turbot was 57 tonnes, but catches were far lower, only 28 tonnes for sprat and 43 tonnes for turbot. The fishing activity is seasonal and is dependent on the weather conditions in the Black Sea, where there are large differences of temperature between winter and summer, as well as strong winds.
All fish landed is used for human consumption. The main ports used by fishers for landing catches are Mangalia, Olimp, Costineşti, Mamaia, and Cape Midia. Fisheries and aquaculture are of particular importance in remote areas, where they represent the only source of income for local populations.
The total area of inland waters is more than 7 000 km², about 3% of the total area of the country. The Danube has a total length of 1 074 km in Romania, corresponding to about 3 430 km² and holding an average of about 2.23 million m³ of water. The most important inland fisheries are located there. Other areas which are of interest for inland fisheries activities are estimated at 500 000 ha of stagnating waters, 66 000 km of running waters in the mountain, hill, and plain areas.
Inland fishing is a full-time occupation practiced mainly by traditional fishers. In most cases it is a subsistence activity. Commercial inland fishing takes place in rivers, ponds, and reservoirs, including the Danube River, the Danube Delta, and Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. In 2017, around 2 731 fishing boats and over 4 103 fishermen were involved in inland fishing, with a total estimated catch of 3 592 tonnes. Almost all (96%) the vessels and the fishermen (97%) are concentrated on the Danube and its overflow areas, the Delta, and some of its former lagoons.
Cyprinid species dominate the catch. Goldfish (Carassius auratus), and freshwater bream (Abramis brama) account for 41% and 10% respectively of the total. Of the remainder, 13% is pontic shad (Alosa pontica), a member of the herring family.
Aquaculture is predominantly freshwater, and the country's land resources and availability of inland waters provide excellent conditions for fish farming. The most important cultured fish species are members of the cyprinids, particularly common carp. Other species are trout, zander and pike. In total, the aquaculture sector produced 12 209 tonnes in 2017. The growth in aquaculture production can be attributed to the expanded production of common carp in polyculture, extensively or semi-intensively.
There were about 635 production facilities in the country in 2015. Nearly all the farms produced freshwater fish. Organic common carp was produced at 29 farms in 2016. The production of new species, such as sturgeon, is still low. Recently, extensive fish farms have become multifunctional, providing services such as ecological tourism, recreational fishing, and educational activities related to knowledge about and protection of aquatic biodiversity. There is a trend to diversify and increase the current range of aquaculture activities.
Processing and trade
There were 31 registered fish processing companies in 2016, that employed 1 343 people. The processing industry had a production value of €88.7 million with an added value of €10.2 million. In 2017, 20 170 tonnes were produced of which preserved/prepared and frozen whole marine fish were the main product types. The native species commonly used for processing include carp, silver carp, bighead carp, bream, catfish, perch, pike, and trout. The most common imported marine species used for processing are salmon, herring, sprat, and mackerel. There is a great variety of value-added products such as salads, smoked fish, and marinades, as well as primary processed fish (headless, gutted, or portioned).
Romania imports large amounts of fisheries and aquaculture products. Imports have been steadily increasing since 2011, reaching a value of €286 million and a volume of 110 000 tonnes in 2017. More than four fifths of all imports come from other EU Member States with the Netherlands (13%), Poland (10%), Italy (8%), Spain (8%), and Germany (8%) being the main suppliers. Mackerel, hake and herring are the main imported species. In recent years, sea bass, sea bream, trout and salmon have emerged as important imports. Among non-EU countries, Turkey is the main source of raw materials. Imports from there were worth €9.9 million and amounted to 3 089 tonnes in volume.
Romanian exports levels have fluctuated over the past several years. In 2017, Romania exported 24 428 tonnes, (including 17 822 tonnes of fishmeal) of fisheries and aquaculture products worth €40 million. The major export market was the EU (92%), where France, Italy, Bulgaria and Greece were the main destinations. Moldova was the largest non-EU destination receiving half of all non-EU exports. Salmon was the largest commodity group exported to Moldova. Romania is thus a net fish importing country.
Romanian consumers traditionally prefer meat products, and the consumption of fisheries and aquaculture products is far below the EU average. However, the national average apparent consumption of fish and seafood has followed an upwards trend in recent years, reaching 6.2 kg per capita in 2015 (live weight equivalent). The majority of fish and fisheries products are distributed and sold through supermarket chains. Romanian’s household consumption is dominated by live/fresh fish, followed by frozen fish, and marinated and prepared products. The top four preferred species are trout, carp, mackerel, and salmon.
The main challenges in the commercial inland and marine fisheries is the need for modernisation of ports and fishing vessels, promotion of fisheries products, implementing an integrated traceability system for monitoring the entire supply chain. Predation by wild birds and animals and incoherent and unreasonably restrictive legislation constrain development of the aquaculture sector. Other external constraints include climate change, the lack of innovation, and the inefficient collaboration between farmers and science.
Challenges in the processing sector relate to the efficiency of production activities, the use of allocated structural funds, and state intervention measures. The sector needs to diversify into novel and valuable species to attract new national and international markets.
Useful Links for Romania
- ANPA (National Agency for Fisheries and Aquaculture)
- Managing Authority for Operational Programme for Fisheries (Romanian)
- RomFish - Association of Fish Producers (Romanian)
- Danube Delta National Institute for Research and Development
- Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority
- National Institute for Marine Research and Development
- The Fish Culture Research and Development Station