At present diagnosis of fish disease problems is carried out by four groups:
1. The Ministry of Agriculture (Veterinary Division) employs four veterinarians with fish disease training: Athens - Mr Georgiou; Thessaloniki - Mr Fotis; Ioannina - Mr Savides; Messolonghi - Mr Vorinakis.
In addition, central administration, public health and hygiene, animal health and animal feeding stuffs are controlled through Athens by Mr Dimitriou (Director of Veterinary Services), Mr Meravoglou (in control of hygiene for live animals and also animal feeds) and Mr Siris. Legislative aspects of fish disease control (discussed under that heading) are also dealth with by Mr Dimitriou and Mr Meravoglou.
The above four veterinarians examine cases of fish disease when requested to do so by the fish farmers and provide their services free of charge. Investigations normally consist of parasitological and bacteriological examinations with very occasional use of histology techniques. No cell-lines are available for virological diagnosis, but limited water quality analysis can be undertaken. These veterinary surgeons are not allowed to work privately, and must obtain permission to leave the laboratory in order to visit farms. Such visits must normally be carried out within usual working hours and permission to do so can in some cases take up to two weeks to obtain, so that the only practical way in which diseased fish can be examined in an emergency is by the fish farmer bringing samples direct to the laboratory. No routine visits are made to fish farms in order to help prevent fish disease, with the possible exception of Mr Savidis and the trout hatchery at Louros.
2. Prof. Pneumatikatos and staff of the Veterinary School at Thessaloniki will and have investigated fish disease problems. There is more possibility for visits in northern Greece essentially involving freshwater fish farming. Again, bacteriological, parasitological and limited histological and water quality analyses are possible. Interesting or novel disease problems may be referred to the Veterinary School by the Ministry veterinarians so that further work and research on the subject may be considered.
3. A fish disease laboratory has been established at the National Centre for Marine Research in Athens, under the control of Mr Karanikolas. Fish disease problems are being investigated from a number of sites by the laboratory, but particularly involving marine aquaculture, and research programmes are being set up jointly with fish farmers. There is good contact with such farms, and advice and diagnosis can be provided through the regular contact which is established. Parasitology, bacteriology and water quality analysis are carried out here and there is an especially good histology and nutritional analysis capability. No virology facilities are available.
4. Some individual fish farms employ staff with a basic knowledge of fish disease and often have a microscope on site so that basic parasitology can be carried out directly by the fish farmers. Some samples are very occasionally sent overseas for further opinions on the problems encountered.
Future needs for diagnostic services
Provision of good diagnostic services is essential if the aquaculture industry is to develop in Greece. In connection with certification work for legislative purposes, regional Ministry laboratories will need to be maintained and probably strengthened in terms of facilities and manpower. All regional laboratories should be well equipped for studies in parasitology, bacteriology, histology and water quality and all staff appropriately trained. A good virology facility will also be necessary, together with isolation and water treatment for the investigation and screening of viral diseases in fish. A central facility may be sufficient for this purpose but with further aquaculture development, virology facilities may be needed in the regional laboratories. Given the particular importance of viral disease screening in the salmonid industry, the first virology facilities should be established in the area of trout production, i.e., in northern Greece in either Thessaloniki or Ioannina.
Routine diagnostic work for non-controlled diseases and non-infectious disease problems may be carried out either by the same laboratories or through institutes such as the National Centre for Marine Research in Athens and the Veterinary School in Thessaloniki. There may also be a future role in this respect for private veterinary laboratories. Research into fish disease problems should be carried out through the research institutes and possibly also through the Ministry laboratories.
Funding for statutory legislative control work and facilities will need to be provided centrally by the Ministry of Agriculture, and other diagnostic work partly covered by central funding authorities, at least until the industry develops. Eventually the industry should be able to pay for its own non-statutory diagnostic services. It is also likely that larger companies will set up their own diagnostic laboratories.
In the short term, a more flexible system is needed, which allows Ministry veterinarians to visit fish farms to investigate outbreaks of disease without delay in order to see the problem firsthand and take samples at the farm. A system of regular visiting and contact must be established between the fish farms and the bodies carrying out diagnostic work in order to improve the prevention of fish disease outbreaks.
It is also essential that, following the proper equipping of the regional laboratories, intensive screening of farms already in existence be carried out in order to determine, using normal screening methods and numbers of fish per sample as described under “legislative requirements”, which diseases are present and take appropriate action should eradication of any particularly serious disease be necessary. Such action, together with appropriate import controls, should prevent serious effects of some of the important “notifiable” diseases (see legislation) as the industry becomes more intensive, both in individual farms and in particular areas.
4. Training in fish virology techniques will be necessary for the efficient running of diagnostic and certification laboratories. This can be readily supplied to Greek veterinarians and/or technical support staff in Ministry certification laboratories in a number of European countries and can also be provided as a short-term training at the Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, Scotland. Such a study visit would also be the most rapid way of improving virology facilities and establishing an appropriate equipment list.