Population: 60.6 million (2016, Eurostat)
GDP: €1.66 billion (2015, Eurostat)
GDP/capita: €25,600 (2015, Eurostat)
Overview of the Italian fisheries and aquaculture sector
(currently under review)
Fishing in Italy takes place along the entire coastline. In 2015, national catches accounted to 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 represented with small-scale fishing (8,763 vessels), followed by trawlers (2,542 vessels), and hydraulic dredges (706) types.
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 with less than 12 m in length, using passive gears, involving day trips with a minimal crew (one or two fishermen). The gears most commonly used are: surrounding nets, bottom trawl nets of different dimension, midwater trawlers (volanti), dredges (turbosoffiante), trammel nets - traps and longlines used by the small-scale fisheries fleet segment, drifting long lines — widely used today to catch large-pelagic fish.
The European Union (EU) capacity control policy led to a significant reduction in the Italian fleet capacity in recent years, with a consequent decrease of marine catches by about 44 percent between 2006 and 2014.
The main species are the 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 deep-water 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 gear in use in various fishing grounds and the high biodiversity of aquatic resources.
Aquaculture is based on a long tradition and history. It is characterized by a high level of specialization, and large-scale production. Out of the 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, but with higher density along the Adriatic coasts.
High level of specialization and know-how, high degree of industrialization and large‐scale organization are the 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 registered 311 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 with small enterprises with less than 5 employees. Total employment in the aquaculture sector comprised 5,164 persons, of whom 1,937 held full time positions. The full-time employment was about 38% of the total employment in the Italian aquaculture sector, highlighting the importance of the 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% of 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 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 value of €5.034 billion in 2015, while its exports reached 193,000 tonnes with value of €744 million.
As export destination, Spain (18%), Germany (12%), and France (10%), made up a half of Italian export volume 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, comprised mainly 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 was 8 times higher than exports in the previous years. A major part of imports is represented with value added fish and seafood products. Spain is the main supplying country of fisheries and aquaculture products for the Italian market with 21% share in the 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, blue mussels, bream, seabass, squid, shrimps, oysters, and swordfish were the main species.
Italian inhabitants consume an average of about 28.9 kg per head of fisheries products each year (live weight equivalent – kg/capita per year) what places 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 in 2010–2014 with slight decrease of 5%.
The main challenges of fisheries and aquaculture sector are summarized in the EMFF operational program 2014–2020. Concerning fisheries, it aims to ensure that fishing capacity and available fishing opportunities are better balanced, and to strengthen the competitiveness and profitability of fishing enterprises.
Two main aims in aquaculture are promoting environmentally sustainable aquaculture development, with a focus on organic production and strengthening the competitiveness and profitability of aquaculture enterprises by supporting product innovation and processes as well as with creation of a hatcheries consortium. Low level of internationalization of the domestic aquaculture, low diversification of domestic aquaculture products and activities, and lack of financial tools for new investments are presenting some of the main challenges.
A key challenge in processing industry is enhancing the role of POs by supporting a process of rationalizing for the national territory with a focus on the added value that POs can bring to the supply chain, and by developing collective actions.
Useful Links for Italy
- Ministero delle Politiche Agricole, Alimentari e Forestali
- Capitaneria di Porto Guardia Costiera
- Associazione Generale Cooperative della Pesca
- Associazione Piscicoltori Italiani
- The National Research Council (CNR)
- National Institute of Statistics
- Italian Society of Marine Biology
- Centro Interuniversitario di Biologia Marina, Livorno