You are also encouraged to view the “Fisheries and Ocean Economy” and “Aquaponics” pages.

The way human beings live is placing great strain on the planet with various scenarios indicating that we will require three planets in the near future to remain on our present trajectory (NASA, 2014).  The oceans and marine fish resources have not escaped. The percentage of fish stocks that are within biologically sustainable levels have decreased from 90 percent in 1974 to 65.8 percent in 2017 (FAO, 2020). Some fish-stock has become extinct and others severely depleted. How to ensure food security, livelihoods while ensuring that there life continues to exist in our oceans? Identified solutions are set out on the Fisheries and Ocean Economy page, but an important one which we will look at here is aquaculture, farming with fish.

The primary types (or branches) of aquaculture are marine aquaculture (saltwater / coastal), freshwater aquaculture (fresh water / inland) and brackish water aquaculture.

  • Marine aquaculture is a branch of aquaculture involving the farming of marine plants and animals which is conducted in the open ocean, in enclosed sections of the ocean, or in tanks, ponds or raceways which are filled with seawater.
  • Freshwater aquaculture is a branch of aquaculture involving the farming of freshwater plants and animals which is conducted primarily in ponds, open water cages or tanks.
  • Brackish water aquaculture is a branch of aquaculture involving the farming of fish and crustacea found in the saline waters of creeks, lagoons and estuaries.

Freshwater species are generally farmed in recirculating systems, earth ponds, cages or raceways whereas marine fish are farmed in onshore recirculating systems or cages in sheltered bays. The marine molluscs are farmed on rafts or longlines, and abalone are produced in tanks through which marine water is pumped continuously.

Aquaculture has food security, job creation and export potential. It is probably the fastest growing food sector in the world (FAO, 2020).

Source: Notes on the primary types of aquaculture come from the Legal Guide For The Aquaculture Sector In South Africa (see "Websites & publications" heading); A Profile Of The South African Aquaculture Market Value Chain

International business environment

World aquaculture production attained another all-time record high of 114.5 million tonnes in live weight in 2018, with a total farmgate sale value of USD 263.6 billion (the price of the product available at the farm, excluding any separately billed transport or delivery charge.)

World aquaculture production of farmed aquatic animals has been dominated by Asia, with an 89 percent share in the last two decades or so. Among major producing countries, China, India, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Bangladesh, Egypt, Norway and Chile, have consolidated their share in regional or world production to varying degree over the past two decades.

In 2018, an estimated 59.5 million people were engaged in the primary sector of fisheries and aquaculture. In total, about 20.5 million people were employed in aquaculture and 39.0 million in fisheries, a slight increase from 2016.

Source: The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020 at

Further reference:


South Africa: imports and exports

  • South Africa remains a net importer for aquaculture products (International Trade Centre, 2021).
  • Nonetheless, sub-Saharan Africa as a region presents a good opportunity for fish farmers in South Africa. South Africa’s tilapia exports increased by 8 950 % between 2012 and 2020, from 30 tons in 2012 to 2 715 tons in 2020. Malawi was the largest market destination for tilapia exports from South Africa, with over 2 000 tons during the 2020 marketing season, which is in line with the FAO’s predictions on the rising fish demand in Africa (NAMC, 2021).
  • The Fish SA brochure “Fishing for a sustainable and equitable future” at provides overviews of the fisheries (as opposed to aquaculture) exports of squid, hake, Cape horse mackerel, lobster and other species.

Local business environment

The annual A Profile Of The South African Aquaculture Market Value Chain (see the “Websites & publications” heading) covers aquaculture projects happening nationally.

  • South Africa (SA) accounts for less than 1% of global aquaculture production. Its aquaculture sector is in its infancy relative to the (wild) fishing sector, and as a result it is often viewed as support sector in response to increased demand for fish during a period of declining wild fish stock.
  • Aquaculture is diverse in both the farming methods used and specie farmed. Broadly the sector comprises of two culture environments with associated species: Marine: Abalone, Mussels, Oysters, Seaweeds, Dusky kob; Freshwater: Trout, Tilapia, Catfish, Ornamentals.
  • The SA aquaculture sector is characterised by three commercial anchor industries namely trout, abalone and mussels which jointly make up 92% of the total value of the sector, with total sales across the sector of R1 billion.
  • Abalone is the species with the highest value, and currently South African producers focus their marketing and sales efforts towards the Asian markets (in particular China).
  • Operations are concentrated in rural and semi-rural areas of South Africa (mostly in the Western Cape), and acts as an important contributor to economic development in these areas.
  • The sector supports approximately 6,500 jobs (direct and indirect).
  • In recent years the industry has expanded substantially with production levels increasing by almost 75% since 2013 to approximately 6,000 tons (Aquaculture South Africa, 2020).
  • The total sales value across the aquaculture sector in 2018 was approximately R1 billion excluding additional value generated through leisure and tourism, e.g. trout farming.



  • After a period of significant growth there has been a slowdown in activity due to increasing economic pressure (Covid-19 and other).
  • Significant operating costs including electricity, manpower, feed and services are hampering competitiveness in global markets
  • Market participants rely on costly private security service providers to combat stock theft due to a spillover from poaching and increased criminality in rural farming areas.
  • There is a high administrative burden across the sector with a plethora of regulations across different levels of the value chain.
  • The sector faces similar challenges to Agriculture and requires similar support structures relating to breeding programmes, research, globally competitive farming practices, feed formulation, disease control, and market access.


Further reference:

  • The Aquaculture Association of Southern Africa presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Environmental, Forestry and Fisheries (June 2020), from which the above points are taken, sets out the challenges of abalone, trout, mussels, tilapia and catfish sectors. It also sets out a projected path post COVID-19.
  • The DALRRD-NAMC TradeProbe Issue 85 (May 2021) includes the report “An analysis of the South African aquaculture market and opportunities“.

Heart of Abalone - Agritourism Hermanus

For the newcomer


Several articles are available to the prospective fish farmer, mainly with headings like the following:


1. Market

Do you understand the market you plan to supply?

2. Species Choice, Climate & Infrastructure

The species selection will in turn drive the choice of infrastructure that is most appropriate for your climate, market requirements and skill of the management.

3. Scale of Operation & Expansion Rate

The market information you obtained will guide you in terms of an appropriate scale on which to start the business and according to which expansion should occur. Essentially there are two options:

  • start big and bring in skilled management
  • start small, learn from mistakes and grow with successes. (The second option is strongly recommended for new comers to the industry).

4. Technical Skills

Knowing the species and infrastructure types you will be using will guide you towards the skill sets you require.

5. Feed Supplier

Feed makes up more than 50% of operating costs. Don’t skimp on costs – quality is important!

6. Site Selection

Consider not only the water supply, climate and other onsite considerations, but also the related matters such as selective advantages offered by different sites in terms of labour source, buildings available, gravity fed vs pumped water supply, road quality and distances, electrical supply and telecommunications.

7. Capital Requirement

Having completed all the steps above you will have a clear idea of how much capital you require for construction, for cash flow through the lowest point in the budget and a healthy reserve for just in case. Insufficient capital can quickly starve the life out of a business, even a very profitable business!

8. Legislation

The final step in the planning, or the first in the execution, is to appoint an environmental consultant to obtain the permits for you. A good service will be expensive but an essential step in the process. Going through the steps above carefully and with attention to detail will give you the best possible chance of succeeding in the very exciting industry.


Some of these articles:

National strategy and Government contacts

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic)’s Aquaculture Development and Enhancement Programme (ADEP) is an incentive programme. Find details at under “Financial assistance” at You can also consult

View the National Freshwater (Inland) Wild Capture Fisheries Policy for Implementation (2022, February), published by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE).

The proposed Aquaculture Development Bill B22-2018 was withdrawn.

The Aquaculture Competitiveness Improvement Programme (ACIP) listed the challenges facing aquaculture in the country and sets out measures to address these. The ACIP was part of the Agricultural Action Policy Plan (APAP).

The National Aquaculture Strategic Framework 2012 (NASF) required public sector interventions to create an “enabling environment” for sector development. The NASF defined “comprehensive sector development interventions aligned with Government development policies” e.g. the old Industrial Policy Action Plans (IPAPs), National Development Plan (NDP), the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) Integrated Growth and Development Plan. Operation Phakisa – Aquaculture Lab (2014-2019) was classified as one of its actions (Aquaculture Association of Southern Africa, 2020).


Role players

  • The Aquaculture Value Chain Round Table (AVCRT) is a formalised industry-government partnership between the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) and Aquaculture Association of Southern Africa (AASA).
  • Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries
  • Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD)  Take the “Branches” and “Fisheries Management” options on the website. Information about and details of the Directorate: Aquaculture Technical Services (D: ATS) and the Directorate: Sustainable Aquaculture Management (D: SAM) are available there.
  • Directorate Marketing Tel: 012 319 8455 Find the annual Aquaculture Market Value Chain Profile on the directorate’s website
  • Department of Water and Sanitation
  • South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) Find SANS 631:2009, the South African National Standard for crocodile farmers on the website.
  • Provincial Departments of Agriculture do aquaculture research and training. In the Western Cape contact Ferdie Endemann at ferdiee [at] In KwaZulu-Natal, Mbongeni Khanyile at mbongeni.khanyile [at]
  • The Coega Development Corporation (CDC) offers opportunities in the agro-processing and aqua farming industries. For investors who wish to take advantage of opportunities in the agriculture sector, please contact Dr Keith du Plessis at info [at] or by calling 041 403 0400 / 086 102 6342.

Further reference:

  • The Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment parliamentary committee meeting (17 June 2020) had presentations by the Aquaculture Association of Southern Africa, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) South Africa, Peter Britz and FishSA. Find the meeting minutes and presentation at



Associations involved

The Aquaculture Association of Southern Africa (AASA) The objectives of the association are “to contribute towards the development of aquaculture in Southern Africa through effective representation and dissemination of information”. The website provides a background to aquaculture, gives details on new developments – well worth a visit for interested parties. Below are relevant associations, whether affiliated to AASA or not. If no contact details are provided, please contact through AASA.

  • Abalone Farmers Association of Southern Africa (AFASA) and the Farmed Abalone Export Council Tel: 021 785 1477 / 028 313 1055 and 021 701 1820 / 072 392 0721
  • Aquaponic Association of South Africa
  • Catfish South Africa
  • The Crocodile Farmers Association who, with the Farm Animal Unit of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA), formulated a code of practice through the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS). This code lays down minimum standards within the industry and applies to all parties who keep or breed crocodiles in captivity, including tourist parks. Write to gerry.swan [at] Visit
  • Federation of Southern African Flyfishers (FOSAF)
  • Fish South Africa is an umbrella body that includes among its members Premier Fishing, I&J, and Ocean Fishing. See the “Fisheries and ocean economy” page.
  • Marine Finfish Farmer’s Association of South Africa (MFFASA)
  • Mussel and Oyster Forum
  • Ornamental Fish Producers
  • South African Fly Fishing Association (SAFFA)
  • South African Koi Traders Society
  • South African Pet Traders Association
  • Tilapia Aquaculture Association of South Africa (TAASA)
  • Trout South Africa (TroutSA) – affiliates Northern Trout Association and Western Trout Farmers
  • Wild Trout Association

Training and research

  • AgriSETA
  • ARC-Animal Production (Irene) An Aquaculture management course along with rural aquaculture projects are run.
  • Aquaculture Innovations Aquaculture Innovations is a Service Provider to the Aquaculture Industry throughout Southern Africa, providing consulting services as well as theoretical and practical training in aquaculture. This includes SETA accredited Aquaculture Training Courses for Catfish and Tilapia farmer training. The theoretical training is offered at various locations around the region, whereas the practical training is either done on the client’s site or at the Aquaculture Academy in Grahamstown. Distance learning is made possible through DVDs sold via their online store.
  • The CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) has promoted several aquaculture projects over the years. Visit
  • David Fincham Aquaculture David Fincham Aquaculture offers workshops and training to new and existing clients, either at its farm in Muldersdrift or at your premises.
  • KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) Makhathini Research Station Tel: 035 572 5303 Find the research report “Farming with fish”, which covers basic requirements for aquaculture, on the website.
  • Read about the “Marine Finfish Farmers Association of South Africa (MFFASA) – DST-Sector Innovation Fund (SIF)” programme or ‘MASSIF’ Programme at
  • OABS Deveopment has done a study into the development of pet food products from catfish waste. See
  • PCI Agricultural Services
  • Rhodes University Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science (DIFS)
  • The South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) SAIAB is a Research Facility of the National Research Foundation (NRF)
  • Skills for Africa
  • Stellenbosch University (SU) Division of Aquaculture SU presents (i) short courses and workshops (ii) diploma courses (iii) post graduate programmes (iv) certificate courses (v) graduate programmes.income.
  • In order to address the scarce aquatic veterinarian skills and services available in SA, the DALRRD and Stirling University signed an agreement for training of aquatic veterinarians and aquaculture specialists. Visit
  • Tompi Seleka Agricultural College runs a course which covers the practical and theoretical methods of aquaculture. Call 013 264 5300.
  • University of the Free State (i) Department of Zoology & Entomology (ii) Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology Division of Food Science
  • University of Limpopo Aquaculture Research Unit An Aquaculture Research Unit and an Experimental Farm are among the facilities offered by the School.
  • Urban-Econ did research into the development of a commercial tilapia industry. See
  • Water Research Commission Find documents like “Farming with fish – Community finds new hope through aquaculture project” and “Developing sustainable inland fisheries” on the website.

Other Universities, which have project-based involvement in aquaculture include the Cape Peninsular University of Technology (CPUT), University of Cape Town, Nelson Mandela University and the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Most of these contact details can be found on the “Agricultural education and training” page.



Companies and other role players

  • Abagold (Pty) Ltd Abalone producers
  • Advance Africa Develop sustainable aquaculture projects in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Alnet (Pty) Ltd Fish farming nets and other aquaculture equipment
  • Amatola Fly Fishing The first community owned and managed recreational fishery in South Africa.
  • Applied UV cc UV water disinfection (a non-chemical method). It is environmentally-friendly and does not change the water in any way
  • Aquaculture Innovations Aquaculture Innovations serve as consultants, conducting feasibility studies, business planning, site selection, system designs, production audits, training and offering a mentorship program whereby existing and new entrants into the industry are supported.
  • Aquaculture Insight Aquaculture consultants
  • AquaEco Aquaculture and environmental services: planning, technical guidance, impact assessments, statutory approvals and … sustainability
  • Aquaponics Africa Aquaponics and aquaculture systems and services
  • Aqunion Abalone farming business
  • Astore Aquaculture pipes and fittings
  • Bessemer Products include those for fish farming
  • Biodyne South Africa Tel: 060 526 0434 Biological treatments for all aquatic, ground water and waste water treatment plants
  • Biomin Animal Nutrition Feed for fish and shrimp
  • Blue Ocean Mussels Mussel farm and processing factory
  • Catfish Supreme (Pty) Limited A catfish hatchery with a capacity to produce ±8 000 000 fingerlings per year.
  • Croc City Crocodile Farm
  • CSIR Enterprise Creation for Development Feasibility studies, business planning, due diligence, etc. as well as implementation and establishment of businesses. Projects include mussel farming.
  • David Fincham Aquaculture FarminaBox systems offer “the lowest cost of entry, lowest running costs and lowest technical requirements”
  • De Rust Grass Carp De Rust is “the leading authority on Grass Carp in Southern Africa”. These (sterilized) exotic species are can be used for, amongst other things, the control of aquatic weeds in dams and waterways.
  • Deep Blue Aquatic Systems Design, manufacture & installation of aquaculture systems.
  • Dewdale Trout Fishery Tel: 021 876 2755
  • Dicla Farm and Seeds The Dicla Eco Tilapia System is a turnkey project offered with design, supply, and installation, and training assistance
  • Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) Aquaculture is one of the sectors targeted to increase foreign and local direct investment in the Eastern Cape.
  • Eastern Cape Tilapia Specialises in the supply of whole and filleted Tilapia to the South African market.
  • Efficient Microbes EM Pro-Aqua, an alternative strategy to antimicrobial compounds for disease prevention and control in aquaculture.
  • Elandskloof Trout Farm A farm near Dullstroom, Mpumalanga
  • Florida Bass Tel: 058 913 2924 Cell: 082 494 2882 Fishing hatchery
  • Gariep Nature Reserve The reserve includes a fishing hatchery for Largemouth and Smallmouth Yellowfish
  • Giants Cup Hatchery™ Giants Cup Hatchery specialises in the production of live angling trout. It supplies angling fish throughout KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape Southern Drakensberg.
  • Hartbeespoort Fisheries Leading breeders of indigenous fish species including Mozambique Tilapia, Red Breast Tilapia, Dwarf Tilapia, Banded Tilapia, Barb Species, Large Mouth Bass, Yellow Fish, Catfish, Mosquito Fish Etc.
  • Heart of Abalone Combines abalone farming with tours of the operation
  • HIK Abalone Abalone farming
  • Inseco Animal feed made from insects
  • Irvin & Johnson I&J’s Danger Point Abalone Farm is one of the largest aquaculture installations in South Africa.
  • Izintaba Crocodile farm
  • King Koi Farm Tel: 011 979 3978 Fish offered that are imported from Taiwan and Japan, as well as locally bred varieties
  • La pieus Aqua Aquaculture and Aquaponics Farm
  • Le Croc Farm and tannery
  • Lunsklip Fisheries Live and processed trout for the South African markets and disease free certified trout ova for the international market.
  • Marel Fish processing equipment and systems
  • Marifeed Feed for trout and abalone
  • Marine Growers Abalone farm. Part of Premier Fishing
  • New Generation Emerging Farmers Pty (Ltd) Tel: 083 330 0999 Trailers, poultry houses, greenhouses, aquaculture – products and services
  • Ozonetek Tel: 021 593 0486 “sterilisation the chemical-free way”
  • Path Plastics Co (Pty) Ltd Products include a range of fish bins, pallets, insulated bulk bins, containers etc.
  • Peixe Bela Vista Tilapia producers and suppliers
  • Rainbow Tarps & Linings Tel: 072 562 2658 reservoirs /breeding tanks
  • Ratho Farms Crocodile farm
  • Repcillin CITES licensed crocodile oil
  • Rhino Water Water storage and water systems
  • Riverbend Crocodile Farm Crocodile farm
  • Sannitree International Bacteria to keep aquaculture ponds and fish tanks clean.
  • TerraSan Limited A number of aquaculture, mariculture and fishing operations are carried out
  • Thaba Kwena Crocodile Farm Tel: 014 736 5059 / 082 576 9540 Crocodile farm
  • The Fish Farm A patented micro fish farm for an inner city environment
  • Three Streams A family operation takes quality Rainbow Trout from the hatchery phase through to the Smokehouse.
  • Umkhonto Development Solutions Help with accessing the different financial incentives from government for Aquaculture Development and Enhancement Programme (ADEP)
  • Viking Aquaculture Abalone farming. Other products include mussels, finfish, oysters and tuna.

Websites and publications

Visit the websites listed earlier on this page.


Some articles

Read the many aquaculture articles on the Farmer’s Weekly website. Find “Aquaculture” under the sectors option at This includes “Which fish should be farmed in SA, and where?”, “A word of warning for start-up producers” and “Fish production: simplicity or sophistication?



See also the earlier “International business environment” heading.

The State of the World’s Aquatic Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is a global report based on information provided by 92 countries, representing around 96% of global aquaculture production. Find it at

Some articles …


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