- Capital: Warsaw
- Population: 37,8 million (2021, Eurostat)
- GDP: €524 billion (2020, Eurostat)
- GDP/capita: €13 650 (2020, 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 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 2020, the national fleet consisted of 823 registered vessels, of which 821 vessels belonged to the Baltic fleet. with a combined gross tonnage of 32 371 GT and a total power of 80 262 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 2020, the the catches of the Baltic fleet amounted to 130.4 thousand tonnes, while the long-distance fleet harvested 61.5 thousand tonnes. Baltic sea fisheries targeted species such as sprat, herring, and Baltic cod. Polish long-distance vessels fish primarily for cod, saithe, redfish, halibut, mackerel, and horse mackerel. Poland also has a small freshwater fishery, and in 2020, the inland commercial and recreational fishery captured 3 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 on the Polish territories of Osiek, Zator, Przygodzie and Lyszkowice. These farms are at least 8 to 10 centuries old but are still functioning. The farming 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.
During the past five years aquaculture sector has been showing a 5.6% average annual growth, reaching 50.1 thousand tonnes in 2020 worth €117.3 million. The number of enterprises in the sector was about 1 130, employing 4 757 people (full time equivalent). In terms of volume, the biggest category is carp production, which annually provides over half of the country’s total aquaculture output, with common carp dominating. Carp farming is extensive or semi-intensive and carried out in earthen ponds. Salmonids, mainly rainbow trout, are the second largest group with an annual share of about 40% of the total volume. 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. Compared to the previous year, trout production in 2020 increased by 23.7% reaching 23.5 thousand tonnes worth €65 million (over 55% of the total production value). Other farmed species include sturgeons, African catfish, pike, tench among others.
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. 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 2020, processing sector output totalled 616 thousand tonnes with a value of €2.96 billion., and the number of processing companies amounted to 236. Preserved and canned products represented the largest volumes with a 45.4% share, followed by fresh/chilled whole fish and fish fillets (19.2%), smoked fish (15.9%), frozen fish and fillets (14.2%), and salted and other products (5.3%).
In total, Poland imported 652 thousand tonnes of fish and seafood in 2020, for a value of €2.3 billion. Sweden was the main supplier of fish as raw materials with about 25% of the import volume, while other significant partners included Norway, China, Germany, and Denmark. Poland is one of the biggest salmon importers in the world, with about 35% of the imports being salmon (225.7 thousand tonnes in 2020).
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 cod among others.
In 2020, Poland exported 591 thousand tonnes of fisheries and aquaculture products valued at €2.44 billion. Over 80% 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 2021, per capita consumption of fish in Poland was 13.33 kg, about 55% of the EU average. There has been a positive trend in consumption over the last few years, from 12.4 kg/per capita in 2017. Herring, Alaskan pollock, and mackerel are the most popular marine species, carp and trout are the most consumed freshwater species, while tuna dominates in the preserved/canned product group. Consumption of fish — carp in particular — traditionally peaks during 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. Rising health awareness is thought to be the most popular reason for rising fish consumption. 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, and sustained employment. In the aquaculture sector, one objective is to produce 51 600 tonnes by 2023; this would include an increase of 6 000 tonnes from recirculation systems and an increased contribution to sustainable employment and environmental protection.
Regarding processing, Poland aims to increase the sector’s competitiveness through more effective utilisation of resources, raw materials, waste, and discards, as well as to support 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
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