Frequently Asked Questions
On this page you will find answers to frequently asked questions that we receive regarding Greek Aquaculture and its products
Why farm fish? Why is there a need for Aquaculture?
Fish is the only major source of food for people that continues to be obtained from nature instead of being cultivated or raised, as has been the case with all other foodstuffs for centuries.
At the same time, the global demand for fish and seafood has grown rapidly in the last few decades (the outcome of population explosion on the planet) and continues to grow. As a result, fishing is unable to cover the steadily increasing demand. Already seas and oceans all over the world have been ravaged – possible beyond remedy – by excessive fishing practices and industrialized fishing and are no longer sufficient.
Consequently, aquaculture, beyond a modern necessity, is also an ethical obligation of humans to nature. According to F.A.O., by the year 2030 the worldwide consumption of fish will have grown by 25%, raising demand to 150-160 million tons.
At the same time, in order for fishing to be sustainable, the annual global fishing total should not exceed 100 million tons. The balance in terms of the demand seafood products will have to be met by aquaculture production. The global development of aquaculture does not only stem from the rising demand for seafood products, but also from factors such as the excellent quality of aquaculture products, the traceability of products throughout the production process, and the consistent availability of fresh seafood products throughout the year.
Does Mediterranean Aquaculture pollute the environment?
Aquaculture is quite possibly the only human industrial activity that depends to such a degree on the marine environment since fish live and develop within the limited cubic meters of sea that the fish farm has at its disposal. Hence if we want to continue to exist, we have to take care not to destroy or pollute, but on the contrary, to maintain the marine environment in a clean condition as it is, above all, in our own interest.
On the other hand, there is no industrial activity that does not burden the natural environment at all. The impact of aquaculture on the quality of water around it, is nothing else than the gradual accumulation of food residue and fish feces on the seabed, which can be translated into an increase of nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in water and seabed sediments.
However, recent research has shown on the one hand that this accumulation is limited to a distance of a few meters around the sea cages and that the increase of nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations due to this accumulation is negligible in comparison to the quantities that end up into the seas from other industrial activities on land.
Furthermore, it has been proved that the marine environment around an aquaculture unit is completely rehabilitated and returns to its original condition within very few months after the removal of the aquaculture installations from a particular area.
Modern open-sea fish farms in Greece are installed in any case in areas with large depths and strong currents, and therefore achieve a faster dissolution and dispersion of the organic matter emitted from the cages.
As a result their accumulation in the seabed is increasingly less in the last few years. At the same time, contemporary fish feed is specially formulated and is particularly digestible, thereby fully absorbed by the fish, hence byproducts are significantly reduced.
The greatest proof, however, that the burden on the marine environment by aquaculture is limited and completely reversible, is the abundance of life and fish fauna observed around every fish farm. Thousands of fish of every kind from smelt, sardines, bogues, and mullets, to bonitos, small tunas, bluefish, yellowtails and even giant tuna fish, seem to know the well-known saying “the big fish eats the small”. They crowd around sea cages looking for food and … safety, since fishing is not allowed around aquaculture facilities.
In this way the fish themselves answer questions regarding pollution by Mediterranean Aquaculture.
What types of fish are farmed in Greece?
In Greece, and in the Mediterranean in general, primarily Gilthead Sea Bream (Sparus aurata) and European Sea Bass (Dicentrarchus labrax). These two species account for over 98% of the total annual production of farmed fish. These fish species are sold usually at a weight of 300g to 600g, but one can find them at larger sizes (600-800g, 800-1000g and 1 kg+).
Also farmed in Greece, but at a much smaller scale, are Sharpsnout Sea Bream (Puntazzo puntazzo), Red Porgy (Pagrus pagrus), Meagre (Argyrosomus regius), Pandora (Pagellus erythrinus) and White seabream (Diplodus sargus) and also in certain areas of Greece (mainly for roe production) grey mullet (Mugil cephalus). These species make up the remaining 2% of the annual total production.
Beyond these, at an experimental stage until now and in small quantities, common dentex (Dentex dentex), stripped seabream (Lithognathus mormyrus), saddled seabream (Oblada melanura), brown meagre (Sciaena umbra), and others are also farmed.
Is farmed Mediterranean fish healthy and fresh?
Aquaculture fish are fed with manufactured balanced fish feed, which has a composition that corresponds to the dietary habits of each fish species in nature.
Although it sounds far-fetched or self-serving, aquaculture fish are 1) the healthiest and 2) the freshest fish that a consumer can purchase. In many cases, they are indeed healthier and definitely fresher than free-range fish. This becomes understandable, if we take the following into account:
1) Why is it healthier?
It is well known that fish is in any case one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods for human beings. This is due to its high biological value proteins and mainly to its high fatty acid content, especially in polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, which are especially useful to the human constitution.
Tens of scientific studies have proved the remarkable value of fish fatty acids in the daily diet, especially for prevention of diseases (cardiovascular, neurological, etc) that plague people today. An equally high number of studies compare the qualitative characteristics of aquaculture fish to those of free-range fish. Without exception, they outine the superiority of aquaculture fish compared to free-range fish, in terms of higher content in polyunsaturated fatty acids precious to our health and at the same time their lower content in saturated fats, which are less healthy.
Therefore aquaculture fish, being richer in polyunsaturated fatty acids from free-range ones, are more beneficial to the human constitution.
Furthermore, aquaculture fish are safer in terms of provenance. This is due to the fact that they are raised in an approved and aquaculture-compatible controlled environment, under the supervision of experts (biologists, ichthyologists, veterinarians) and with the strictest quality specifications. By contrast, free-range fish are of unknown provenance and are often caught in environmentally taxed areas, near harbors or places where urban waste is released.
2) Why is it fresher?:
Aquaculture fish is certainly the freshest fish that a consumer can buy, because it is caught on demand!
As soon as the producer receives a particular order for a specific quantity, he harvests the fish (that up to that moment are alive) in his marine facilities, kills them instantly in special tanks filled with ice and water, and immediately starts the packaging process (in advanced automated packaging units and under the strictest hygiene specifications), and then transports them in special refrigerator-trucks to the various markets.
Throughout this whole process, the so-called cold chain is maintained. In other words, the fish (which is an especially sensitive product) is kept chilled at the appropriate temperatures, and as a result it is kept intact and completely fresh. The fish reaches the supermarket, restaurant or fish vendor’s counter at peak condition, in the minimum period of time from harvesting.
On the other hand, no one knows exactly when a fish was caught in the nets of a trawler, how much time elapsed from slaughtering to being stored with ice, how much time it was exposed to heat or the sun, and how much time elapsed from the time it was caught to the moment it reached the fish vendor’s counter.
What kind of feed is given to farmed Mediterranean fish?
Fish feed utilized falls into the category of dry feed and is produced in 2 forms, depending on the size of the fish raised: pellets for larger sizes and granulated meal at younger ages.
The production process involves pre-processing of fresh raw materials, which are usually fishmeal, fish oil, and cereals, with the addition of vitamins, trace elements (necessary for normal fish growth), and finally starch to hold the ingredients together.
The advantages of using complete manufactured fish feed is that:
- it is produced in specialized industrial facilities with controlled production conditions, utilizing certified raw materials and as a result is hygienically safe
- it has controlled physical characteristics (shape, size, density, color)
- its composition is controlled; therefore it has a stable and known nutritional value and organoleptic properties
Finally, because manufactured fish feed has fishmeal as its main ingredient, which is also derived from fish, this feed has a similar profile of nutrients, proteins and mainly polyunsaturated fatty acids. Therefore, it fully retains the precious nutritional value of fish, which, on the principle of “you are what you eat,” it transfers it in turn to the aquaculture fish intact.
Modern technology and know-how in the sectors of fish feed production and fish cultivation ensures these positive properties are always present in aquaculture fish and often that they are improved to even greater benefit the human consumer, as stated in a published article (Rueda et al., BRITISH JOURNAL OF NUTRITION, vol. 26 (5), pp. 617 – 622), where the lipid profile of cultivated fish was found to be more appropriate for human diet than that of the free range fish.
What are fish meal/fish oil and where do they come from?
Fishmeal and fish oil are the main ingredients of fish feed with which aquaculture fish are fed. Fish feed must give the fish being grown the necessary protein and fat for their growth. Fishmeal and fish oil are used as sources of protein and fat in fish feed.
Fishmeal and fish oil derive from the processing (grinding) of certain species of ocean fish caught mainly in the South Pacific and the North Atlantic that are unsuitable for human consumption mainly due to their small size and hard flesh. These fish species form large populations, multiply fast and in great numbers, grow very quickly, and have a short life cycle. They are caught in large numbers and constitute a significant source of protein and fish oil of excellent quality, not only for the needs of worldwide aquaculture, but also for animal raising in general (for example, the beef and poultry industries).
It is estimated that the annual global production of fishmeal is approximately 6.5 million tons, out of which only 2 million tons are absorbed by aquaculture. Correspondingly, the annual fish oil production is approximately 1.2 million tons, out of which aquaculture absorbs approximately 450,000 tons.
Are pharmaceutical substances used in Mediterranean Aquaculture?
The main pharmaceutical substances used in aquaculture are for prevention and protection from disease and consist of no other than vaccines and immunity boosting agents. The use of vaccines (always approved by the Hellenic Drug Administration) is now routine in Mediterranean aquaculture. This particular category of substances does not present any danger to consumers, it makes fish more resistant to bacteria and microorganisms that could attack them.
The use of vaccines protects the welfare of the farmed fish from incidents of disease thereby eliminating the need for antibiotics or other medicine. Therefore, due to the widespread use of vaccines in aquaculture, disease is now rare and there is seldom a need for the use of other medicines. If, however, disease occurs, ONLY approved antibiotics are used and they are only administered subsequent to prescription by a veterinarian specializing in fish disease, and ONLY after all necessary tests have been run.
In any case, as is the case with other animal species for human consumption, “waiting times” are strictly kept so that fish flesh is completely devoid of even trace antibiotics. It should be stressed here that there is a basic distinction in farmed fish land animals bred for the production of food. The difference is that the medium surrounding fish, in other words seawater, is controllable to a high degree, especially at young ages, when the fish are more sensitive to diseases.
At these ages, fish is still raised on land facilities under highly controlled conditions, so the water coming in undergoes full processing (filtering, and Ultraviolet radiation processing) during which all possible pathogens are removed. The transfer to sea-cage farms occurs at ages when the fish are resistant and furthermore vaccinated. As a result disease incidence is very low and thereby the use of medicine is very limited.
Are hormones administered to our farm-raised fish?
In contrast to the breeding industry of land mammals (cattle, pigs, goats and sheep) for food production, where hormones are used to control reproduction (estrus control, increase of milk production, increase in the number of offspring) and in some countries for faster growth (growth hormones, USA) in aquaculture there is no need to use such substances.
Control of reproduction is achieved with entirely natural means, such as control of light duration (photo period) and water temperature in which broodstock are raised (thermo period).
Finally, in regards to growth, there is also no reason to use such substances because the normal genetic potential of fish ensures in any case fast growth, a short reproduction cycle, and food utilization at levels much better than land species.
Consequently, in aquaculture HORMONES ARE NOT USED.
Are the fish of Mediterranean Aquaculture genetically modfied?
Categorically and without any reservations, NO! Nor is there any reason for the fish to be genetically altered.
Mediterranean and Greek aquaculture fish are identical to those living and reproducing in our seas.
They come from broodstock procured through free-range fishing that have been rigorously selected through successive generations (based on zootechnic principles) for their vigor, rapid growth, resistance to disease, and physical characteristics.
They are in every way genetically identical to any free-range seabass or seabream.
How large is Mediterranean Aquaculture today?
Greece can be proud! Greek aquaculture is the world leader in the production of Mediterranean fish species, as it produces approximately 50% of the total global production.
Greek aquaculture has followed a spectacular course in the last three decades. Taking advantage of the excellent environmental conditions and the ideal morphology of its shoreline, it has grown rapidly, acquired its own know-how, and very quickly dominated the European & international markets
In 2011, 315 aquaculture units were in operation in Greece and their total production is estimated to be 120.000 tons of fresh fish, as well 40 fish-hatcheries that produced more than 420 million fry. The fry produced by Greek hatcheries is 90% absorbed by Greek fish farms, while 70-80% of the fish is exported and the remainder is directed to the Greek market.
Today, Greek aquaculture is a very important sector of the national economy, as it is produces the country’s number one food export product (fresh Sea Bream and Sea Bass) with an annual export turnover of over 500 million euros.
What is the information that the seafood retailer has to display at the point of sale?
According to the European Union directives for labeling in force as of January 2002, every single fish sold in the market by retailers (supermarkets, fish vendors) MUST BE properly labeled – in other words, it must provide the consumer with basic information on its provenance.
Specifically, these labeling directives require that:
- the commercial name of each fish is listed
- the scientific name for the species is listed
- the mode of production of the fish is listed – that is, whether it is wild-caught or farmed fish,
- if it is wild-caught fish, its provenance should be listed – that is, where and when it was caught,
- if it is an aquaculture product, the country of production should be listed, whether it is in the European Union or a third country
SELONDA hails this important step by the European Union as one in the direction of increasing responsibility in informing the consumer on products. The company is moreover ready to take it one step further by making its own products fully traceable for the consumer at every stage of the production chain. Hence, information is already available to consumers related to the diet, method of production, as well as a complete record of the processing and packaging of its products.
Furthermore, SELONDA encourages all producers and retailers to respect consumers and adhere to the above directives.
Why should we eat fish?
Fish are the most excellent source of proteins and fatty acids, elements essential for good health. Doctors recommend that we should eat fish at least 2 times a week. The fish have high nutritional value, since they are rich in high quality proteins (similar or even better in comparison with those in meat) while at the same time they are also rich in ω-3 fatty acids (poly-unsaturated fatty acids, PUFAs).
Of course, since those valuable compounds are contained in adipose tissue, fattier fish (sea bass, sea bream, salmon, sardine, mackerel etc.) are more nutritious and healthier for the human organism. The ω-3 fatty acids shield the organism from cardiovascular diseases (thromboses, infarctions) as they decrease triglycerides and “bad” cholesterol, decrease the coagulability of blood and the arterial pressure, limit the danger of ischaemic cerebral episodes, increase longevity, help in the loss of excess body weight and strengthen our immune system.
Furthermore, the fish constitute the most balanced diet because, apart from proteins and fatty acids, they also contain large quantities of calcium (helps the development of bony tissue), iodine (helps metabolic functions as it is a basic constitutive of the thyroid hormones and also in the development of the nervous system), phosphorus (assists the development of the muscular system and in the metabolism of amino-acids), and last but not least, a lot of vitamins (A, B12, D) which are necessary for the human organism in many ways.
Also, recent scientific researches showed that frequent consumption of fish, apart from the general benefits to human health, also helps prevention of certain diseases such as depression, arthritis, asthma, coronary heart disease, cerebral episodes, Alzheimer syndrome, as well as cancer, obesity and premature childbirth.