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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » November 28, 2013
Regional and Traditional Products
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Zator Carp
November 28, 2013   
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Zator carp is the only type of Polish fish so far to have received EU protected designation of origin status, a label it acquired in May 2011. These tasty fish are bred in the three neighboring communities of Zator, Przeciszów and Spytkowice in the western part of Małopolska province, southern Poland. The communities joined forces in 2003 in a project called Carp Valley.

The only fish which are released to the local fish ponds are hybrids from the Experimental Fish Facility in Zator. The fish grow to 1.2-2 kilograms in organic fish farms, feeding mostly on natural food with a small addition of cereals. The ponds contain 300-600 fish a hectare.

The Zator carp is a hybrid of pure Zator carp and pure Hungarian, Yugoslavian, Israeli and Gołysz (Silesia province) types. Its distinctive features include a pronouncedly curved back, compact shape and an olive green hue verging on olive green and blue. Importantly, the meat is free from a muddy taste, offering a delicate flavor and a fresh scent.

Although the history of fish ponds in Zator dates back to the 14th century, actual fish farming in Poland did not develop until the 16th century. Fish farming became widespread. While fish ponds were commonplace in areas owned by magnates, churches and the royal court, they were also found on the estates of the nobility from modestly-affluent landowners to minor nobles. Some of the most noteworthy fish farming regions included the Duchies of O¶więcim and Zator and the Wieluń Region in the west of present-day Małopolska province. Fish farming thrived during long periods of peace until wars ruined ponds, causing carp breeding in Poland to decline.

Things clearly improved after World War I when fish ponds were restored and Poland imported new technology. New regulations were introduced for minor fish merchants and the first fish store was opened in Cracow. In 1946, the local Jagiellonian University took over the Zator State Property and established an Institute of Animal Husbandry where research began on enhancing the commercial quality of carp. The market demand for fresh fish drove up production which, thanks to the high number of fish ponds, rose rapidly. The amount of carp produced increased from 200 metric tons in the 1950s to 490 tons in the 1990s. In 1946, local farmers started to gradually introduce what is known as the Zator carp farming method and which involves a two-year cycle. The survival rate of young fish increased to an average 86 percent after the first year and the method has been in use to this day.

The proximity of rivers and redeveloped gravel pits prompted local businesses to work together and promote the sales and consumption of carp. In the process, the Carp Valley has evolved into a recreational area attracting anglers and fans of water sports.

Most work involved in carp farming is done manually, which means that skilled workers with vast knowledge are essential. The production process has not changed much over the years, though aluminum boats are now used instead of wooden boats, while horse-drawn carts have been replaced by special transportation equipment to make sure that the fish are shipped in better and more humane conditions.

The clean air and rare animal and plant species in the area make the Carp Valley and the entire Zator region unique.
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