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Seaqualia is Romania’s first turbot farm

Large turbot aimed at the up-market restaurant trade Turbot (Psetta maxima) is a flatfish prized for its delicate white flesh in markets across Europe, but particularly in Spain and France. In the wild the fish is found in the north east Atlantic as well as the Mediterranean and Black Sea, but global capture production has averaged less than 7,000 tonnes for the 10 years since 2002. In the 70s turbot cultivation was initiated in Scotland and from there spread to France and Spain.


oday, within Europe Spain is the largest producer with an output of 8,300 tonnes in 2012 out of a total European production of 12,800 tonnes. Another European nation that produces significant volumes of farmed turbot is Portugal, where production increased in 2011 by 23 to 2,500 tonnes and by 60 in 2012 to 4,000 tonnes. Much smaller volumes are produced in France, the Netherlands, and Iceland. On a global plane China is by far the largest producer of farmed turbot with an annual output of 60,000 tonnes.

Backing from a well-known name in the power sector The popularity of turbot in Europe is encouraging other producers to enter the game. In Romania, Elcomex, a company with interests in the power sector, has invested in a turbot farm, called Seaqualia, that has just gone on stream. Gabriel Popescu the managing director of Seaqualia recalls how he discussed the pros and cons of different species with his principals. Recirculation systems are best suited to high value species as the technology entails a high initial investment and running costs. Among the species that were discussed were tilapia, eel, sturgeon, and turbot. While

tilapia was rejected because it did not have the same cachet as the others, eel was considered unsuitable because of the dependence on glass eels, which come from the wild and whose price could fluctuate wildly. We seriously considered sturgeon, says Mr Popescu, but I had personal experience of a pond farm that, with a relatively modest investment, converted a carp hatchery into a small unit for the reproduction and culture of sturgeon. Making a big investment in a recirculation system to produce sturgeon, when it could be produced cheaply in a pond did not make economic sense. In addition the gestation period for a sturgeon farm is very long and while caviar is a valuable product, there is no market for sturgeon meat. Taking these factors into account it became clear that turbot was the best choice of fish to farm. It is a high value species, well known in Romania and with no other producers. Barriers to entry are high as there are not many suitable sites where the fish can be produced. The decision to farm turbot was taken in 2008, but it took five years for the project to be realised what with the paperwork, site selection, building, and equipment installation. Mr Popescu travelled to Denmark, Germany, Norway, and the

The first batch of turbots was introduced into the tanks in April and will be harvested in about 12 months.

Netherlands to meet with producers of the recirculation equipment needed for the farm. It was at the Akva Group’s offices in Fredericia, Denmark, where he met the former manager of a turbot hatchery, that led to the decision to go with the Akva Group. Not only did they have experience with recirculation systems for turbot, they were also building a similar system for a company in China, he says, and in addition the system they were offering could produce 150 tonnes of the fish, which was our target.

Plans for a hatchery put on hold Finally, in January 2013, the first batch of 155,000 turbot juveniles was introduced into tanks. Originally Seaqualia had also planned to have a hatchery, but after discussions with experts in Denmark it became apparent that a hatchery would double the investment

and would only give a return with a minimum production of one million juveniles. The supply of juveniles is stable and reliable as there are European hatcheries, including one in Denmark, that produce them, so we decided to buy on the market rather than have our own hatchery, says Mr Popescu. Operating a hatchery is also a major endeavour in itself as it calls for investments in broodstock, the production of live feed, etc. so the decision not to have a hatchery enabled the company to concentrate on the ongrowing of the fish. At the same time if all goes well and we decide to expand production we could reconsider our decision, he adds.

Restaurant sector and fishmongers are the target customers The 155,000 juveniles were introduced into the tanks over three Eurofish Magazine 3/ 2013


Eurofish magazine 3 2013  

This issue covers Romania and reviews the ESE in Brussels. The Aquaculture section looks at new candidate species.

Eurofish magazine 3 2013  

This issue covers Romania and reviews the ESE in Brussels. The Aquaculture section looks at new candidate species.