Lessons from the Mediterranean: Strategies with Competition

Mr Hervé Lucien-Brun, Jefo Aquaculture Consultant, France

The European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax), with almost 160 000 tonnes farmed in 2015 (including 77,000 tonnes from Turkey), and the gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata) with 150, 000 tonnes (including 48,000 tonnes from Turkey) are the two most farmed marine fish in Europe. Production began in the 80s in France, Italy and Spain. But the most spectacular development took place in Greece during the 90s, thanks to the numerous sites available and European financial support. The development then continued off the Turkish coast. The other main farmed species are turbot (Scophthalmus maximus) at 11,000 tonnes, and meagres (Argyrosomus regius) at 4,000 tonnes.

During the few first years, Italy was the main market but the increase in the production of farmed fish induced a strong decrease of ex-farm prices that obliged the industry to rationalize the fixed costs. Today, most of the small operations have failed, and major companies have taken over production. The sea bass and sea bream farms are mostly in floating cages except in South Portugal where sea bass are farmed in earthen ponds. The fingerlings (almost 1 billion per year) are produced in specialized large hatcheries to optimize the production cost.

The major feedmill companies control the feed industry. The EU regulation on feed is very strict in terms of authorized raw materials that respond to demands by consumers. There is a strong effort to reduce part of fish meal and fish oil in the feed.

Currently, most of these fishes are marketed as whole and fresh in Southern Europe: Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. Certification is a strong asset on the markets for certified producers. This presentation will review the developments in this industry and discuss the strategies that producers have adopted to remain competitive, such as reducing the costs of production, marketing and branding, as well as seeking new markets within the EU.