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 with a licenced production ranging from 300-1700 tonnes/year. From the offshore fish farm units there are eight active units and from these, five operate near Vasiliko bay (south Cyprus) (Seawave Fisheries LtdBlue Island PLCTelia Vasiliko Ltd and Telia Tuna, and EMAT Ltd), Telia Aqua Marine Public Ltd operates near Liopetri (southeast) and Kimagro Ltd operates two units outside Limassol harbour.

The most important species of marine fish cultivated in Cyprus are gilt-head seabream (Sparus aurata) and European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) using circular floating cages (diameters ~20 m) at depths of 20-70 m and distance 1-3 km from the shore. To a lesser extent meagre (Argyrosomus regius), rabbit fish (Siganus rivulatus), red pandora (Pagellus erythrinus) and the breams (Pagrus pagrus and Pagrus major). In 2016 the total aquaculture licensed production was 8,877 tonnes. Based on estimations made by the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research (DFRM), the total annual production for 2016 amounted to 6,647 tonnes of which 5,136 tonnes were seabream and 1,442 tonnes were seabass, at the total value estimated at 36.1 million euros.

Cyprus ranks as the fifth seabream and seabass producer country in the Mediterranean. The aquaculture sector is financially supported by the ‘National Strategic Plan for Fisheries’ (2004-2020). The long-term goal of the authorities is 10,000 tonnes which shouldn’t be long from now considering current expansion rates.

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.

We hope that the authorities will change this monitoring program as there are limitations and potential upgrades that could enhance the sensitivity and quality of fish farm monitoring.

MER currently carries out the bi-annual monitoring at Seawave Fisheries Ltd (since 2009). 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).