Carp aquaculture in Poland: an ancient tradition established by monks (part 2)

By: Wesley Malcorps, Piotr Eljasik, Richard Newton, Jacek Sadowski and Remigiusz Panicz

After the conference it was time to go into the field and meet some of the farmers in the center and north of the country. This area of Poland is relatively flat with some hills, and large water bodies, making it an excellent habitat for carp. In late February farmers are preparing to move their fish into ‘production ponds’, which they will occupy until the next winter. At that time carps are transferred to deep (approximately 2.5m) ponds to hibernate. This cycle is repeated in the second year until the fish reach a harvesting size of 1.5 kg to 2 kg.

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The carp sector faces many challenges, such as strict regulations, predators and consumer preference for other fish. Despite that, there are also many opportunities, such as better carp processing into multiple products and  eco-intensification using novel formulated feeds. GAIN is exploring the sector to assess the impact of different innovations to support the sustainable growth of the industry: we are also looking forward to contribute and collaborate with everyone involved in the sector.

Carp aquaculture in Poland: an ancient tradition established by monks (part 1)

By: Wesley Malcorps, Piotr Eljasik, Richard Newton, Jacek Sadowski and Remigiusz Panicz

On February 17th UoS colleagues arrived in Poland to start data collection on the carp aquaculture value chain together with Polish partners from ZUT. The main goal is to gain insight into industry practices and collect value chain and life cycle assessment data from Polish carp farming value chain.

ZUT has a large network in the sector and proposed to meet the industry players at the 25th National Conference of Carp Breeders and Training for Fish Producers. This event took place between the 19th and 21st of February 2020 in Slok, a small town in the centre of Poland- this was an excellent opportunity to talk with stakeholders and introduce them to the GAIN project.

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The Polish carp sector is considered ‘extensive’: traditional, functioning in large ponds (few hectares up to a few hundred hectares) with low feed or other inputs, while also exposed to predation from birds and other wildlife – as a result, these ponds are characterized by their natural production capacity. Intensification strategies like pond fertilization and feed application (e.g. grains or formulated feeds) are uncommon. This natural and traditional way of producing carp dates back to the middle ages where monks constructed earthen ponds to provide food for the communities. Such carp farming systems are unique to Eastern Europe and produce only a small share of the global carp production.

The majority of carp is farmed in China, using different production systems, of which some are considered ‘intensive’ – with high stocking densities, pond fertilization and formulated feeds. Most of these ponds use polyculture strategies where multiple species maintain the balance in an ecosystem – waste of one species is used as a feed input for the other.

Fig2
Richard presenting on Chinese carp aquaculture, while Piotr translates in Polish.

Richard Newton substituted Wenbo Zhang (unable to travel from China due to the Coronavirus) and willingly gave the presentation while providing some interesting insights in the development of aquaculture in China and in particular the diversity in Chinese carp farming systems. Polish carp farmers were curious about it.

(end of part 1 – expect part 2 soon)

Carp – King of Christmas or National Treasure?

By: Remigiusz Panicz

Poland is the biggest carp producer in Europe, and it is expected that in 2019 production will rise up to 21 000 tonnes. Based on available data carp sales increase every year, but without a doubt the peak is observed a week or two preceding the Christmas period.

Carp ZUT

More than half of Poles declare their willingness to purchase carp during this period. Remarkable is also the fact that during Christmas Poles consume as much as 90% of the annual fish consumption. Such situation is unique in the World. In Polish tradition, carp is a fish that reigns on Christmas tables, although other species also appear on it (e.g. herring, salmon, trout, lean fish).

Consumers value carp meat for its taste and aroma, but we should bear in mind that carp meat has also a high nutritional value. It’s a source of wholesome and easily digestible protein, health-promoting fat (essential fatty acids), vitamins and minerals. Sales are dominated by carps in live form or as carcasses, and increasingly as chunks or fillets.

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However, growing consumer awareness and the systematically increasing pace of life forces producers to search for new processing methods and to create more attractive products. Thanks to this, soon carp will be present in stores throughout the year. To overcome this challenge, Polish carp farmers will have to intensify and modernize production methods.

One solution could be combining traditional breeding in ground ponds with closed aquaculture systems. This system is currently being tested by the ZUT team together with other GAIN project partners. In addition to the breeding aspects, shortening the production cycle, supported by precision aquaculture (use of sensors, biomarkers, Big Data, IoT), the assessment of turning both by-products and side-streams into valuable secondary materials – while increasing profits and minimizing the environmental footprint – becomes crucial.

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There are several hundred carp-producing farms in Poland, which cover over 80 000 hectares of pond area. The fish farming sector employs over 5 000 people, with approx. 3 000 directly in carp farming. These farms may be interested in solutions developed in GAIN, especially those considering water availability reduction due to climate change.

Ponds are also a natural habitat for various birds, mammals and other animal species, which contribute to improving the environmental biodiversity and its attractiveness for tourism. Ponds are also important in water management – thanks to water retention they improve water balance in our country.

All of these aspects are a testament to carp being not only a King of Christmas but a National Treasure as well!

SZCZECIN LAGOON