Sources, Quantities and Cultivation Methods — Seafish

Gilthead Sea Bream

Sparus aurata

Sources, Quantities and Cultivation Methods

Source and Quantities

Gilthead sea bream (also known as sea bream)1 are common in the Mediterranean Sea and present along the Eastern Atlantic coasts from Great Britain into Senegal, and found in both marine and brackish water environments such as coastal lagoons and estuarine areas2.

Sea bream is an important fishery and aquaculture species. Farming sea bream was traditionally small-scale, based on the capture of wild juveniles to be reared in lagoons, but nowadays it is farmed intensively using net pens, largely in Southern European coastal waters3, 4.

Global Gilthead Sea Bream Production: Key Locations and Volumes 2018 (5)

Sea bream is one of the most important cultured species in the Mediterranean. World production has increased steadily from around 96,000 tonnes in 2003 to an estimated 228,576 tonnes in 2018 and valued at US$1.08 billion. As shown in the map, Turkey and Greece are the biggest producers and combined represent 72% of world production5.

Domestic Market Information

Our domestic seafood market is complex mix of products from wild caught and farmed species, including sea bream, which in recent years, has grown in popularity in Great British retail (i.e. in England, Scotland and Wales).

To discover more about the highly dynamic and ever-changing UK and Great British (GB) seafood marketplace, you can explore our user friendly and interactive Trade and Tariff in Tableau (T4) online tool. And visiting our dedicated Insight and Research pages will provide you with access to a wealth of information, from reports to factsheets on markets including:

  • Retail – data from independent and multiple retailers in the UK used to reveal the latest insights on seafood eaten at home
  • Foodservice – data from the foodservice industry in the UK used to highlight the latest trends on seafood eaten out of home
  • Market supply – HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) data used to detail what species and products are imported from, and exported to, the UK

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Production Method2, 3, 6

Sea bream were traditionally reared in enclosed lagoons where they fed naturally until harvested. Some of these early production systems are still operational today. The example of Atlantic salmon farming in Northern Europe, combined with a scarcity of juvenile sea bream for lagoon rearing, led to research programmes being initiated in the 1960s in order to intensify production. This enabled the start of commercial scale sea bream farming in coastal areas of the Mediterranean in the 1980s.

Selective breeding programmes for sea bream are now in place. These are generally part of larger integrated companies which control the entire process from reproduction to harvest, however there are still independent European sea bream hatcheries that sell juveniles (i.e. seed) to on-growing facilities. Along with feed, the purchase of seed is the biggest operating cost for sea bream farms.

Broodstock are kept under controlled conditions with spawning initiated using hormonal treatments and photomanipulation (control of lighting used to prolong the sea bass spawning cycle). Fertilized eggs are collected on the surface of spawning tanks, placed in incubator tanks, and hatch after 48 hours At this point they are given specialised diets, including live feeds such as rotifera (microscopic zooplankton) and artemia (a small crustacean).

Gilthead Sea Bream Production Schematic (adapted from 2)

After 40-50 days, the larvae are transferred to a weaning unit where they are fed a formulated high-protein ‘micro-diet’ (small pellets). After a further three to four weeks the fry are transferred to juvenile breeding units. Two months later, at 2-5 g, they are ready for on-growing.

During on-growing fish are fed and reared in floating net-pens until harvest; this will be undertaken in either small cages in sheltered marine sites, or larger net-pens in more exposed locations. Along with feed, the purchase of seed is the biggest operating cost for sea bream farms.

Although producers rear a range of sizes for market, sea bream are generally harvested when they reach 350-400 g, which takes from a year and a half to two years, depending on water temperature.


  1. Defra
  2. FAO
  3. EC
  4. FAO
  5. FAO FishstatJ