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

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.

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

Find “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022” at The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture “aims to provide objective, reliable and up-to-date information to a wide audience – policymakers, managers, scientists, stakeholders and indeed everyone interested in the fisheries and aquaculture sector”.

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. A more recent fisheries report back (2023, March 28) – as opposed to aquaculture – gives feedback on abalone and other species in the wild.
  • 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); and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) Integrated Growth and Development PlanOperation 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)
  • 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.
  • The Coega Development Corporation (CDC) offers opportunities in the agro-processing and aqua farming industries. See

Further reference:

  • The Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment parliamentary committee meeting (17 June 2020) had presentations by the Aquaculture Association of Southern AfricaWorld Wildlife Fund (WWF) South Africa, Peter Britz and FishSA. Find the meeting minutes and presentation at The 2023, March 28 committee meeting heard about matters in fisheries. See

Role players


Note: Click to expand the headings below.  To get a free listing on our website like the ones below, visit here for more information or place your order hereDisclaimer: The role player listings are not vetted by this website.

Peixe Bela Vista – Tilapia producers and suppliers
Inseco – Animal feed made from insects
 Representative Bodies
 Training, Consulting & Research Service Providers
 Community, NGO and NPO Service Providers
Further reference:

Training and research

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

Websites and publications

Visit the websites listed earlier on this page.

  • Find the training manual, A Manual for rural freshwater aquaculture, compiled by the Rural Fisheries Programme, Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, Rhodes University on the DFFE’s website,
  • Many other aquaculture publications are available from the Water Research
  • Several DALRRD marine aquaculture brochures are available on the internet: (1) Farmed Mussels Pamphlet (2) Farmed Kob Pamphlet (3) Farmed Abalone Pamphlet (4) Farmed Oysters Pamphlet (5) Marine Aquaculture Awareness Brochure (6) Marine Aquaculture Food Safety Fact Sheet, and (7) South African Molluscan Shellfish Pamphlet.
  • Find A Directory of Development Finance and Grant Funding Organizations for Aquaculture Operations in South Africa 2019 on the Directorate: Aquaculture and Economic Development pages on the “old website” at
  • Leslie Ter Morshuizen of Aquaculture Innovations compiles an Aquaculture electronic eNewsletter. Contact leslie [at] Also available are Aquaculture manuals, which serve as a first introduction to the topics they cover, to assist new-comers in determining which branch of aquaculture interests them and how to proceed – and Aquaculture Textbooks covering a wide range of topics including Tilapia Farming, Earth Pond Management, Disease Management and Cage Aquaculture. More recently Aquaculture Innovations recorded a Distance Learning Training Program onto DVD which is available from
  • Call 012 842 4017 or email iaeinfo [at] for the following leaflets from the ARC Agricultural Engineering: (i) Agro-processing of Marine Foods (Fish products) (ii) Faktore wat die terreinkeuse van ‘n akwakultuuronderneming beïnvloed (iii) Factors that influence the choice of a site for an aquaculture enterprise.
  • Find the notes on freshwater fish at
  • Henk Stander (Stellenbosch University) has notes on farming with Sharptooth Catfish (Clarias gariepinus). See
  • Read “Trout farming in South Africa: expanding Local Markets Work With Ecotourism” by Henk Stander and Danie Brink at
  • Find the Provincial Government of the Western Cape document “Generic Environmental Best Management Practice Guideline for Aquaculture Development and Operation in the Western Cape” on the internet.
  • A DVD on Tilapia farming is available from Dicla Training. Visit
  • Find information on Koi at the KoiNet Connection –
  • Read about the government grants to the aquaculture industry at
  • The DALRRD-NAMC TradeProbes periodically cover aquaculture-related issues. Find these at
  • Republic of South Africa. 2013. Legal Guide For The Aquaculture Sector In South Africa. First Edition.
  • Find various documents on DALRRD‘s Directorate Aquaculture Technical Services web pages at


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.

Some articles …

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