by Thomas Jensen
IT l
  • Capital: Rome
  • Population: 53 million (2022, Eurostat)
  • GDP: €1.91 trillion (2022, Eurostat)
  • GDP/capita: €32 390 (2022, Eurostat)

Overview of the Italian fisheries and aquaculture sector

Fisheries sector

ITA Fish


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, a little over 0.5%, it is more significant in certain regions, particularly the south.

Fishing in Italy takes place along the entire coastline. In 2022, national catches accounted for 132,800 tonnes worth €762.2 million. The size of the Italian fleet has been steadily decreasing over the last decade; however, numbers have been levelling out recently. In 2022, 12,231 vessels were registered. The fleet is highly diversified with a broad range of vessel types targeting different species, predominantly in the Mediterranean Sea. Over 70% of the fleet is made up of small vessels, less than 12 meters in length.

The small-scale fisheries use passive gears and involve day trips made by a small crew of one or two fishers. The gear types that are most commonly used are: surrounding nets, bottom trawl nets of different dimensions, midwater trawlers (volanti), dredges (turbosoffiante), and trammel nets. Traps and longlines also are used by the small-scale fisheries fleet, including drifting longlines which are widely used today to catch large-pelagic fish.

Crustaceans are the largest contributor with 28% of the total value. Other valuable species groups are cephalopods (15%), anchovy (8%), whitefish (7%), and flatfish (3%).

Over 28% of the landings volume in 2022 consisted of small pelagics, predominantly anchovies and sardines. Other important commercial landings included crustaceans, such as deep-water rose shrimp (Parapenaeus longirostris) and Spottail mantis shrimp (Squilus mantis) as well as cephalopods mainly cuttlefish, squid, and octopus. Tuna also plays an important role in catches. The landing composition of marine fisheries is very heterogeneous, reflecting both the different gears in use, various fishing grounds, and the high biodiversity of aquatic resources.


ITA Aqua

Aquaculture in Italy is based on a long tradition and history. It is characterized by a high level of specialisation and large-scale production. Out of 30 species, production is dominated by Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis), Japanese carpet shell (Venerupis philippinarum), and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Italy is a major producer of Japanese carpet shell in Europe. European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata) are the major marine-farmed finfish species.

Traditional extensive aquaculture is still carried out in the “valli”, brackish lagoons – especially in the northeastern 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). Marine aquaculture includes both shellfish (mussels and clams) and finfish, freshwater aquaculture mainly consists of trout farmed in raceways. Aquaculture is developed all along the Italian coasts, with higher density along the Adriatic.

High levels of specialisation and know-how, a high degree of industrialisation and large‐scale organisation are key features of the Italian aquaculture sector.


In 2021, the total output of the Italian aquaculture sector amounted to 145,877 tonnes worth €547.2 million. In the shellfish sector, Mediterranean mussel contributed to 59% of the total aquaculture volumes and 10% of the value, while Japanese carpet shell contributed to 16% volume and 39% value. Finfish farming is divided into freshwater fish species and marine species. Production of the marine farmed fish amounts to 16,023 tonnes with sea bream (8,31 tonnes) and sea bass (7,282 tonnes) as the main farmed species.

Freshwater finfish farming takes place in the north and central regions of Italy. The output of freshwater farmed fish amounts to 44,340 tonnes, most which is rainbow trout (40,441 tonnes), followed by sturgeons (1,252 tonnes).

In 2021 the number of aquaculture enterprises (including hatcheries, fattening for consumption, sport fishing lakes, breeding fish and nurseries) amounted to 3,464, located mainly in Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont, and Lombardy. Farms intended for fattening for consumption amount to 1,539, of which 61% are oriented towards the production of molluscs, 38% fish and 1% crustaceans. At a territorial level, in addition to significant size of farms located in Veneto (molluscs and fish), shellfish farms emerge in Emilia-Romagna and Puglia. Italy’s aquaculture sector is dominated by small enterprises with less than five employees.

Processing and trade

ITA Proc

Italy’s processing industry plays an important role in the nation’s economy. In 2022 it was valued at €2.1 billion and produced 275,148 tonnes of fish products. Prepared or preserved tuna is the main product, with a volume of 82,825 tonnes, followed by frozen whole marine fish products with 49,090 tonnes. According to the most recent data available from Eurostat, in 2020 the number of processing companies was 438, and 5,936 people were employed in the sector.

Italy is one of the largest markets for fisheries and aquaculture products in Europe, and the country supplies the majority of its demand through imports. It is the seventh largest market for imported fish and seafood in the world, and the third largest among European Union (EU) countries behind Spain and France. Imports of fisheries and aquaculture products for human consumption reached 1.06 million tonnes with a value of €7.4 billion in 2022. Spain is the main supplying country of fisheries and aquaculture products for the Italian market with a 23% share of total import value in 2022. Sweden (7%), the Netherlands (6%) and Denmark (5%) were also important EU suppliers. Salmon is the main imported product with 16,4% of value, followed by shrimp (9.3%), and squid (8,3%).

The trade balance is heavily deficient at €6.5 billion, as exports only reached 129,095 tonnes with a value of €0.9 billion. Germany (14% of value), Spain (13%), France (9%), and Austria (5%) received the vast majority of Italian exports of fisheries and aquaculture products in 2022.  The main exports from Italy in terms of value are skipjack tuna (17%) and prepared/preserved fish products (9.3%). Salmonids and shellfish are the most significant live/fresh fish exports.


Apparent consumption of fish and seafood products amounted to 29.5 kg per capita (FAO). Molluscs, cephalopods, sea bass and sea bream are commonly consumed products. Fresh fish is the most frequently consumed product (84%), a share that is significantly higher than the EU average (20%).


The EMFAF operational program 2021–2027 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, with a focus on organic production. The competitiveness and profitability of aquaculture enterprises are also priorities and should benefit from support for product innovation and processes, as well as the creation of a hatchery’s association. Low levels of Italy’s aquaculture internationalization, insufficient 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 with a focus on the added value that POs can bring to the supply chain.

Useful Links for Italy

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