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Drop in the ocean Solution to sea bass and sea bream crisis is in hands of producers


alling prices, ruthless competition and markets flooded with too many fish will characterise yet another difficult year for the Mediterranean sea bass and sea bream industry, the web-based news service Intrafish predicts. According to the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers, production of both species totalled just over 300,000 tonnes across eight different countries. Compared to salmon production, this is just a drop in the ocean and it seems absurd, given the popularity of both species, especially for eating out in restaurants, that sea bass and sea bream producers cannot get on an even keel. Many years ago, when the salmon industry in Scotland was in a trade war with Norwegian producers, I suggested that the problem then was not caused by over production but rather under marketing. Sea bass and sea bream now reminds me of the salmon industry of the time although sea bass and sea bream production has had the added burden of the financial crisis that has crippled much of the Mediterranean region. Although the sea bass and bream industry has been damaged by the financial crisis, the solution to the cyclical nature of sea bass and sea bream farming is largely in the hands of the producers themselves. Investment needs to be made to address the under marketing and bring the industry out of these cycles. Back in 2014, Bjorn Myrseth, then president elect of the European Aquaculture Society, spoke at a workshop organised by FEAP about the differences between marketing salmon and sea bass and sea bream. He said that 90 per cent of sea bass and sea bream are sold in domestic or local markets while only 20 per cent of salmon is consumed locally. Norwegian salmon is now present in 160 markets worldwide, including most of those countries producing sea bass. He noted that across Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain, salmon had achieved 15 per cent growth (2010-2012), while seabass and sea bream had achieved only eight per cent in these markets. He also pointed out the importance of Brazilian, Russian, Indian and Chinese markets, with salmon reaching a total of 300,000 tonnes compared to just 6,000 tonnes for sea bass and sea bream (mainly in Russia). He said that, put simply, salmon has become a global commodity, while sea bass and sea bream have not. Finally, he said that whole fish represent only five to ten per cent of the salmon market, compared to more than 90 per cent for sea bass and sea bream. I am not so convinced that it is so simple to compare the salmon market with that for sea bass and sea bream because there are some major differences between the two. For example, the market for salmon is for


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portions because consumers don’t necessarily want to buy a whole 4kg salmon when they are making just a meal for two. By comparison, most sea bass and sea bream are sold whole because the fish are typically 300-400 g in size. I am a great advocate of added value but when the fillet yield on sea bass/ bream is just 45 per cent, the opportunities for adding value to sea bass and sea bream are limited. Mr Myrseth argued that generic marketing has helped the salmon industry and would do so for sea bass and bream producers. I am not so convinced. Generic marketing Is not the solution for sea bass and sea bream simply because there are too many countries involved in production and marketing across borders is fraught with difficulty. I believe that the real opportunities for sea

Above: Sea bass. Opposite: Sea bream

16/01/2017 11:10:13

Profile for Fish Farmer Magazine

Fish Farmer Magazine january 2017  

Serving Worldwide Aquaculture Since 1977

Fish Farmer Magazine january 2017  

Serving Worldwide Aquaculture Since 1977