- Capital: Bucharest
- Population: 19.2 million (2021, Eurostat)
- GDP: €219 billion (2020, Eurostat)
- GDP/capita: €11 360 (2020, Eurostat)
Overview of the Romanian fisheries and aquaculture sector
Marine fisheries sector
Situated in south-east Europe, Romania has a coastline 256 km long, representing 5.3% of the total Black Sea coastline and 0.5% of the total coastline of the 22 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 national fishing fleet is mostly small-scale, i.e. vessels less than 12 metres in length. Romania had 175 registered vessels in 2020, with the majority (133) being less than 12 meters. Five vessels are much larger, between 18 and 29 meters. In 2020, marine catches and landings totalled 4 465 tonnes, which is almost 40% less than in the previous year due to the decreased catches of the main commercial species, rapa whelk (Rapana venosa), whose annual share in the total marine catches fluctuates around 95%. The fleet also targets Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis), turbot (Psetta maxima), European anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus), and red mullet (Mullus barbatus), though the annual share of the species other than rapa whelk is less than 10% altogether.
The fishing activity is seasonal and depends 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 include Mangalia, Olimp, Costineşti, Mamaia, and Cape Midia. Fisheries and aquaculture are of particular importance in remote areas, where they represent the primary source of income for local populations.
The total area of inland waters exceeds 7 000 km², about 3% of the total area of the country. The Danube, home of Romania’s most important inlands fisheries, has a total length of 1 074 km in Romania, corresponding to about 3 430 km² and holding an average of about 2.2 million m³ of water. Other waters which are of interest for inland fisheries activities include 500 000 ha of stagnating waters and 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. Most of the fishing activities are concentrated on the Danube and its overflow areas, the Delta, and some of its former lagoons. In 2020 the catches from inland waters amounted to 2 864 tonnes. Cyprinid species dominate the catch. The largest annual average share of around 45% belongs to Prussian carp (Carassius auratus gibelio), followed by freshwater bream (Abramis brama) with a share of around 10%. Another important commercial species is pontic shad (Alosa pontica), a member of the herring family, but the catches are not stable and vary considerably from year to year.
Aquaculture is predominantly freshwater, and the country’s land resources and availability of inland waters provide excellent conditions for fish farming. The number of cultivated species is over 30, and the most important cultured fish species belong to the Cyprinidae family, particularly common carp, as well as bighead, silver, and crucian carps. Other species are trout and sturgeons, and to lesser extent pike-perch, African catfish, and pike among others. In 2019 the aquaculture sector produced 15 124 tonnes worth € 34.2 thousand. The growth in aquaculture production can be attributed to the expanded production of common carp in polyculture, extensively or semi-intensively.
There were about 504 production facilities in the country in 2018 with a total number of employees of 2 231 in full time equivalent . Nearly all the farms produced freshwater fish. The production of species new to Romanian aquaculture, 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 32 registered fish processing companies in 2019, which employed 1 197 people (full time equivalent), and the production amounted to 22 532 tonnes worth €87.5 million. Romania’s traditional Salată de Icre – salad made from carp, pike, and herring roes, was the major product with a 40% share, though this share may vary from year to year depending on the availability of the raw material. Frozen fish and fillets were the second largest product group with a 21% share, followed by marinated, fresh/chilled, and smoked products with about 10% share each. Fish processors are to a high degree dependent on the imported raw materials – frozen fish or fillets of herring, mackerel, sardine, or sprat. On average, about 80% of the raw material for processing is imported.
Romania is a net importer of fisheries and aquaculture products. In the past several years the volumes have showed a slight upward trend, reaching a volume of 102 129 tonnes and €302 million in value by the end of 2019. More than four fifths of all imports come from other EU Member States: the Netherlands, Denmark, and Spain together supplied one-third of the country’s total imported volumes. Other important suppliers were Czechia, Italy, Bulgaria, and Greece. Mackerel, hake, and herring are the main imported species. In recent years, sea bass, sea bream, trout and salmon have also emerged as important imports. Among non-EU countries, Turkey is the main source of raw materials. Frozen fish still prevail in the structure of imports with an average annual share of 40%; canned products, including fish roes and caviar, is the second largest group with a 20% share; and chilled fillets is another big group which accounts for 15% of the total volume.
The volumes of Romania’s exports of fisheries and aquaculture products human consumption have been growing at about 12% annually in recent years. In 2019 export volume reached 8 951 tonnes, amounting to €44.8 million. The major export market was the EU (about 75% of the total value), where France, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, and Czechia were the major destinations. Moldova and Korea were the largest non-EU destinations. Rapa whelk was the largest single species with about a half of the overall export value.
Romanian consumers traditionally prefer meat other than fish, and the consumption of fisheries and aquaculture products is far below the EU average. However, the average apparent consumption of fish and seafood has trended upward in recent years, to an estimated 7.4 kg per capita in 2019 (live weight equivalent). Most 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 include 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 is a big problem. Reportedly incoherent and unreasonably restrictive legislation constrains development of the aquaculture sector. Other external constraints include climate change, a perceived lack of innovation, and inefficient collaboration between farmers and science.
Challenges faced by the processing sector relate to the efficiency of production activities, the use of allocated structural funds, and state intervention measures. The sector could 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
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