Global fish consumption has risen on average 3.1% annually and per capita global fish consumption more than doubled over the past 50 years, from almost 10 kg in the seventies to over 20 kg per person per year in 2014, almost double the rate of population increase. Wild fisheries unable to cope with this demand has stagnated production levels and aquaculture stepped in to fill the gap experiencing exponential growth; currently producing over half of seafood consumed by humans at affordable prices. Besides safeguarding seafood security, by expanding aquaculture, society can be greatly aided through employment mainly in supporting professions.
Currently three private land-based hatcheries are licenced to produce finfish species in Cyprus, one shimp production unit, seven small land-based units culturing freshwater species (mainly trout), and nine offshore fish farm units to fatten/culture Mediterranean species in Cyprus coastal waters οwn production licences ranging from 300 – 1800 tons per year. From the offshore fish farm units there are eight active units and from these, five operate near Vasiliko bay (south Cyprus) (Seawave Fisheries Ltd, Blue Island PLC, Oceanis, Kitiania, Telia Vasiliko, EMAT Ltd), one near Liopetri (southeast) and two units outside Limassol harbour managed by Kimagro Ltd.
The predominant species cultivated in Cyprus are the gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata Linneaus 1758) and European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax Linneaus 1758). Production in 1994 was just 210 tonnes. The primary production of table-sized fish from aquaculture in 2019, amounted to approximately 10,617 tons worth € 56.3 million (more than doubled from 2012 and quadrupled from 2005). With such a rapid expansion of a newly industrialised practice, a better understanding of its environmental impacts is called for, particularly in coastal waters where it is primarily practiced.
The responsible authority for the sector of aquaculture is the DFMR which aims to the sustainable development of the sector and alignment with the standards and criteria of the EU and of international organizations such as FAO. According to national legislation, fish farms need to be environmentally monitored every six months. The monitoring is carried out based on the guidelines of ‘Revised Monitoring Program’ developed by the DFMR. This document sets the parameters that need to be monitored. Briefly, integrated water is sampled every January and July from the farm site (0 m), 50 m, 200 m, and 500 m downstream as well as at a Control Station. Two replicate samples from each of the five stations are analysed for nutrient concentrations (NH4+, NO2–, NO3–, PO43+) and chl. a. At the same stations, the sediment is sampled with Van Veen grab once a year (every July) and analyzed for the % organic matter, the concentration of Total Organic Phosphorous and size of granules. In addition, macrofauna species are identified (3 replicates from each station) to assess the ecological status.
MER currently carries out the bi-annual monitoring at Seawave Fisheries Ltd (since 2009) and at Temri Group (since 2023). MER was also monitoring Telia Vasiliko Ltd and Telia Aqua Marine Public Ltd (2011-2018), Blue Island PLC (2011-2015) and EMAT Ltd (2011-2014).