- Capital: Warsaw
- Population: 37,7 million (2022, Eurostat)
- GDP: €657 billion (2022, Eurostat)
- GDP/capita: €17 370 (2022, Eurostat)
Overview of the Polish fisheries and aquaculture sector
Poland, situated in central Europe and bordering the Baltic Sea to its north, has a coastline of 775 km, including the Szczecin and Vistula lagoons, accounting for 0.74% of the total EU coastline. Although the fisheries sector represents a minor part of the Polish gross domestic product (GDP), it nevertheless plays an important role in some regions and has an influence on the diversification of economic activities in local communities, particularly in rural areas.
The Polish fleet consists of two major segments, the Baltic fleet, and the long-distance fleet; the latter operates mainly in areas managed by the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), in the North Sea, and in waters under the jurisdiction of Mauritania, Angola, and Guinea. In 2022, the national fleet consisted of 824 registered vessels, of which 822 vessels belonged to the Baltic fleet, with a combined gross tonnage of 35 179 GT and a total power of 84 312 kW. About two-thirds of the fleet are aged 25 years and over. In recent years there has been a decrease in the number of vessels in the Polish fishing fleet, partly due to the decommissioning programme implemented in the country after the EU accession, and to the Fishing Effort Adjustment Plan adopted in 2010.
In 2022, the catches of the Baltic fleet amounted to 110.5 thousand tonnes, while the long-distance fleet harvested 52.7 thousand tonnes. Baltic sea fisheries target species such as sprat, herring, and Baltic cod. Polish long-distance vessels fish primarily for blue whiting, mackerel, and horse mackerel. Poland also has a small freshwater fishery, with combined catches by inland commercial and recreational fisheries not exceeding five thousand tonnes. The main species captured were carp, perch, roach, and bream.
The Polish aquaculture sector has a long history, with the first records of activity dating to the 12th century. The oldest fish farms are located in the Polish territories of Osiek, Zator, Przygodzie, and Lyszkowice. These farms are many centuries old yet are still functioning. This sector is represented predominantly by freshwater farms and is carried out in traditional earth ponds in a 3-year production cycle, a system also seen in other Central and Eastern European countries.
In 2022, there were 1,164 aquaculture entities in Poland producing a volume of fish for human consumption reaching 44.1 thousand tonnes worth €169.8 million. Separately, the sector produced fish roe for human consumption worth €11.8 million, so the total revenue from the sector in 2022 amounted to €181.6 million.
In 2022, extensive fish farming (pond rearing of carp in polycultures with other species) accounted for approximately 46% of the total aquaculture production intended for consumption, while intensive aquaculture (rearing in tanks and raceways, RAS, enclosures and pens for salmonids, sturgeons, African catfish, roe for consumption) produced 54%. It should be expected that, according to the provisions of Poland’s aquaculture development strategy, the share of production from intensive aquaculture will increase in the coming years.
Carp farming, dominated by Common carp, has been traditionally the largest category in terms of volume and provided over half of the country’s total aquaculture output. However, the situation changed in 2020, when the production of salmonids, mainly rainbow trout, took over. Compared to carp, rainbow trout farming is a rather new sector, which started only in the 20th century, and the production began to reach considerable commercial volumes at the end of the 1990s. Trout production is carried out in intensive fish production facilities, which include RAS systems, tanks and raceways, enclosures and pens, as well as ponds. Trout farms are located to the north, on the Baltic Sea coast, and in the south, in the Carpathian foothills. In 2022, the production of salmonids reached 22.5 thousand tonnes or 50% of the total volumes, while carp production, amounted to 17.8 thousand tonnes (40%). Other important farmed species include sturgeons, African catfish, pike, and tench.
Processing and trade
Over the past decade, Poland’s fish processing sector has gone through a considerable transformation, and at present it is one of the largest in Europe thanks in part to a low-cost, efficient labor force. It plays a major role in supplying many European countries with processed fish products such as smoked fish, mainly salmon and trout, canned herring, mackerel, and sprat, and ready-to-eat fish products including salads and fish in marinades. Other products include fresh and frozen cod fillets, ready-to-cook frozen fish fillets, freshwater and diadromous fish such as pike-perch, as well as fresh and frozen whole fish including trout and sprat.
In 2022, the processing sector output totalled 593 thousand tonnes with a value of €3.59 billion., and the number of processing companies amounted to 220, while the employment reached 15 500 people. Medium and large enterprises (>49 employees) produce over 90% of the volumes and in 2022 the production amounted to 545.8 thousand tonnes. The distribution of the processing plants is highly concentrated territorially – over half of them are located in coastal regions.
Preserved and canned products represent the largest volumes with up to 50% share, followed by fresh/chilled whole fish and fish fillets, smoked fish, frozen fish and fillets, and salted and other products.
Processing plants import significant amounts of small pelagic fish, such as herring fillets and mackerel, which are usually frozen and used for smoking and production of marinated fish, salads, and canned fish. Due to its large processing capability, Poland also imports significant amounts of groundfish: cod, Alaskan pollock, saithe, and hake among others.
In total, Poland imported 753 thousand tonnes of fish and seafood in 2022, for a value of €3.3 billion. Norway was the main supplier of fish as raw materials with about 20% of the import volume, while other significant partners included Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Germany, and China. Poland is one of the biggest salmon importers in the world, with about 35% of the imports being salmon.
In 2022, Poland exported 430 thousand tonnes of fisheries and aquaculture products valued at €2.98 billion. Over 75% of the volume was exported to EU countries. Germany is traditionally the largest receiver of Poland’s seafood exports and its share amounted to over 30% (mainly salmon, trout, herring, and various species of groundfish). Other important EU destinations were Denmark and the Netherlands, while the United Kingdom and the US were the major destinations outside the EU.
In 2022, per capita consumption of fish in Poland was estimated at 13.69 kg, about 57% of the EU average. Alaskan pollock, herring, and mackerel are the most popular marine species, carp and trout are the most consumed freshwater species, while sprats, sardines, and tuna dominate in the preserved/canned product group. Consumption of fish — carp in particular — traditionally peaks during the Christmas holidays.
There is a growing awareness among Polish consumers regarding fish and seafood consumption. They are choosing fish products with more care and attention, getting information about products, and are influenced by campaigns promoting consumption and the health benefits of fish and seafood. In recent years, Poland has observed a dynamic development of sushi bars and restaurants, including major sushi bar chains.
The key challenges for Polish fisheries involve maintaining the sustainable exploitation of stocks, increased sector profitability, environmental protection, and sustained employment. In aquaculture, two key challenges are climate change, where rising water temperatures negatively impact fish growth and cause disease outbreaks, and rising energy costs, which risk insolvency, especially among smaller enterprises.
Regarding processing, Poland aims to increase the sector’s competitiveness through more effective utilisation of resources, raw materials, waste, and discards, and support to the market by building a distribution chain and improving the quality of products.
Useful Links for Poland
- National Marine Fisheries Research Institute
- Inland Fisheries Institute
- Polish Association of Fish Processors
- Mister Carp from Polish ponds
- Trout Producers Association
- Polish Fish Market Development Association
- Institute of Agricultural and Food Economics
- MSC Poland
If any of the above listed links do not work or if you have a relevant link to add, send us an email here.