Pond fish farming is by by far the most widespread culture method of raising finfish globally. It is also the dominant type of fish production in Hungary just like in several other Eastern European countries. However, pond fish farming - similarly to other food production sectors - faces new challenges such as need for resilience to climate change, increasingly responsible use of water and land resources, adaptation to unexpected external impacts and changing market conditions. Multifunctional use of fishponds can be a possible response to these challenges as some examples demonstrates. However further efforts are needed to explore the opportunities offered by multifunctional pond fish farming.
Structure and function of the Aranyponty Fishfarm as a pioneer in multifunctional pond fish farming
Aranyponty was one of the first aquaculture companies established after the transition of Hungary in 1989. In 1993, the family-owned business acquired the nearly 1000ha large fishpond system called Rétimajor. Besides the challenge of reconstructing an extremely neglected farming infrastructure, the owners also had to adapt to the fact, that the farm is part of the Duna-Ipoly National Park area as well as other international environmentally protected network. The biodiversity attracted by the large fishponds are unique, with special emphasis on aquatic birds, mammals, and amphibians. However, most of these animals are also competing for resources – dominantly fish – with the farmer. Since these ponds are used for production and not for feeding wildlife, a delicate balance had to be found.
The uniquely attractive landscape with its abundant wildlife created another opportunity, which is eco-tourism. In today’s extremely fast urban lifestyle, Rétimajor provides an opportunity to relax and reconnect with nature. However, most of the visitors are not looking to completely isolate themselves from civilization, therefore certain hospitality facilities were needed, including a restaurant, accommodations, and other services. These developments in turn brought along another demand by the customers, which was safe, healthy, and locally produced food products, including meats, seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Status and perspectives of multifunctional pond fish farming
Based on extensive survey in Hungary and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe and Asia, where pond aquaculture has a great importance in food fish production, it was found, that managers of pond fish farms and competent experts believe that he role of multifunctionality and diversification will increase. The development of multifunctional pond fish farming is basically driven by the stability and economic growth inherent in the diversification of activities, but it is also important to create harmony between farming and the natural environment. Although fish farmers consider the production function to be the most important, nevertheless they are well aware of the importance of ecosystem services and are ready to strengthen this function if they receive measurable financial recognition. Within the fish production function, fish farmers consider the production of healthy and safe fish products to be the most important but are aware of the importance of animal welfare and ethical functions which indicates the need to meet consumer needs at the highest possible level. Analysing the ranking within the environmental functions, it can be seen that the “conservation, maintenance and protection of natural values / resources / ecosystems, biodiversity and valuable natural habitats” was considered by farmers to be by far the most important in the “regulatory” and “landscape preservation” functions. Analysing the significance of social roles, it can be stated that fish farmers consider the dissemination of knowledge about the aquatic environment and fish to be of paramount importance, preceding even the “recreation and tourism” function, recognizing that raising interest in fish also serves their business interests.
Conclusions and recommendations
Multifunctional pond fish farming is a good development opportunity to maintain sustainable production of species low on the value chain and also the ecosystem services provided by fishponds. Operation of multifunctional pond fish farms also contribute to increasing the awareness of the benefits of pond aquaculture including the valuable contribution to the preservation of natural values and to the enrichment of biodiversity. Aranyponty Fishfarm in Hungary is an excellent example of a well-managed multifunctional pond fish farm. The farm in cooperation with research institutions is ready to collaborate with partners from countries where pond fish production dominates to develop management strategies for the better exploration of opportunities offered by the multifunctional use of fishponds.
Békefi E. 2020. Possibilities of multifunctional pond fish farming to increase fish consumption and social acceptance of aquaculture. Doctoral (PhD) Dissertation. University of Debrecen, Hungary. Károly Ihrig Doctoral School of Management and Business. Debrecen, 2020.
Popp J. et al. 2019. Multifunctionality of pond fish farms in the opinion of the
farm managers: the case of Hungary. Reviews in Aquaculture (2019) 11, 830–847