The climatic conditions of the Republic of Armenia are quite favorable for industrial fish farming, especially for breeding and growing of salmonids and sturgeons, and as a result of the targeted use of the groundwater it is possible to organize the production of commercial fish in all seasons.
The trends of the recent years in the development of fish farming in the Republic of Armenia show that a large part of business entities have rich experience in fish farming and effective management skills, which makes this sector both profitable and promising.
About 17,000-18,000 tons of commercial fish is produced annually in Armenia, the majority of which is the rainbow trout. Due to the high quality characteristics, the produced fish is in great demand in the Russian Federation and other countries, which results in exportation of about 20-30% of the fish products.
Fish farming is also of strategic importance for our country, as fish farms can be established not only in the lowland areas, but also in the sub-mountainous and even mountainous areas and especially in the border villages, where it can be considered as the only profitable sector, for there are no favorable conditions for arable farming, while opportunities for development of animal breeding are quite limited.
Estimations show that in case of creating more favorable conditions for development of fish farming in the country, it will be possible to make full use of the available water areas that are suitable for fish farming, which will result in not only a dramatic increase of the volume of the commercial fish production, but will also involve in this production process hundreds of families in the rural communities of the mountainous, border, and remote areas.
Back in the mid-1920s, in order to artificially reproduce and replenish the fish stocks of the trout in the Lake Sevan, the first fish farming enterprises were established in Karchaghbyur and Gavar, which were later complemented by the fish farms of Sevan and Lichk community of Sevan region. These fish farms annually released into the Lake Sevan fingerlings and larvae of 7mln trout, more than 100mln koghaks, and more than 20mln whitefish.
The next stage in the development of fish farming began in the 1970s, when industrial fish farming was boosted.
During those years, a number of large fish farming enterprises were established to effectively use the water resources and waterlogged areas of the Ararat Valley. Moreover, not only herbivorous fish were bred here for industrial purposes, but also the rainbow trout and river trout (red trout) that are bred in cold waters. Already in the mid-1980s, the water area of the pond farms of Armash and Sis communities of Ararat Marz and Yeghegnut community of Armavir Marz was about 6,000 hectares, whereby the volume of the annual production of commercial fish (mainly carp and sazan) was more than 5,000 tons. At the same time, the fish farm in the village of Taronik in the Ararat Valley annually produced almost 100 tons of high-value commercial fish – the rainbow trout.
The third stage of the development of fish farming in the Republic of Armenia began in the 1990s, for which the newly formed economic relations were the main driving force. As a result of long-term investments by some business entities, a number of large fish farming enterprises have been established in the country, which have operated effectively due to the development of appropriate infrastructure. In addition to the production-oriented ponds, some of these enterprises have set up the production of caviar and fingerlings, as well as fish processing plants, have established an extensive network for merchandising of fish in Yerevan and throughout the country, and sell their products abroad.
Frozen, as well as processed fish and caviar are exported from the Republic of Armenia to the United States of America, the Republic of Georgia, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, a number of Arab countries, etc.
In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in the production volumes of especially high-value fish species – the trout (salmonids) and sturgeons. The main fish species bred in our country for industrial purposes are carp, silver carp and bighead carp, grass carp and black carp, Salmo ischchan of Sevan, Salmo ischchan gegharkuni, rainbow trout, red trout, and sturgeons.
In recent years, the fish farming enterprises of the country have made successful attempts to breed the Japanese carp (koi) and African catfish for industrial purposes, for these species, having a high growth intensity, allow to reduce the term for growing of the commercial fish, thus making more efficient use of the water areas. In addition, Inter Aqua LLC has introduced a modern intensive technology for growing of the commercial fish, which reduces the volume of water many times, thus allowing to grow up to 1,000-1,100kg of the commercial fish per cubic meter of water.
Another important factor is worth noting that there are trends of cooperation forming in the fish farming sector of Armenia. Very often fish farming enterprises merge or partner with larger enterprises on contractual basis, which makes it easier for smaller farms to arrange acquisition of fingerlings and combined fish feed, as well as merchandising of the commercial fish.
In the last decade, not only has the variety of the commercial fish produced in the country expanded, but the share of fish species has also changed dramatically. For example, if in the past more than 90% of the commercial fish produced in the country was carp and sazan, while rainbow trout made a small percentage, whereas now the ratio has changed dramatically in favor of the high-value fish species – salmonids and sturgeons.
In the natural and artificial waterlogged areas of the Republic of Armenia there are almost 40 species of fish with their subtypes, about 15 of which are used for industrial purposes.
For industrial purposes, the fish species that are not considered endemic to our region are successfully bred, such as grass carp and black carp, silver carp and bighead carp, paddlefish, Japanese carp (koi), African catfish, and Siberian and Russian sturgeon of the sturgeons. The latter, as well as the salmonids (rainbow trout, golden trout, gegharkuni, red trout, and others) make up about 70% of the commercial fish produced in the country.
There are about 166 fish farming enterprises registered in Armenia, of which about 82% operate only in Armavir and Ararat Marzes. The total water area of the fish farming enterprises is 2,886 hectares, of which almost 83% is located in Ararat Marz, and about 16% in Armavir Marz.