replaces: Arabic version (2005), Spanish version (2005), French version (2005), Chinese version (2005)
Producers are making significant efforts to diversify into other species, with the production of sharpsnout seabream (Diplodus puntazzo), common dentex (Dentex dentex), common seabream (Pagrus pagrus), white seabream (Diplodus sargus), common pandora (Pagellus erythrinus), and sole (Solea solea) reached in 2008 to about 1 800 tons and was accompanied by a respective increase in the production of such species’ juveniles.Approximately 80 percent of Greek aquaculture production is exported, mainly to Italy and Spain. Fish, principally farmed seabass and bream, is the second largest agricultural export after olive oil, and is seen as a strategic product by the Greek Government. Production is mostly using marine cages and production costs are among the lowest in Europe. Production sites are located all around the Greek coast, but are most prevalent in the central regions close to good infrastructure and export routes.
Other production systems include the traditional raceways used in trout farming utilising diverted water from small rivers in northern and central Greece and re-circulation tank systems used for eel and tilapia farming.In some areas of Greece extensive culture systems are still used, the so called “limnothalasses“ or brackish lagoons where wild fry is collected and then allowed to grow naturally on yearly cycles. These are mainly used for grey mullet (Mugil cephalus) growth, although many other species are caught and grown together.
In the year 2008, the total number of aquaculture farms reached 1 086 units. The number of mariculture hatcheries and farms was 370. The production systems are mainly open water containment systems (cages) and the main species produced are Gilthead seabream (57 percent) and Seabass (38 percent). New species like Common seabream, Sharpnout seabream, White seabream, Red porgy and Common dentex are beginning to make their way into the industry. The marine aquaculture sector also includes shellfish-farms (604 in the year 2008), mainly located in the Northern part of Greece. Freshwater aquaculture includes 110 farms producing rainbow trout (85 farms), salmon, eel and carp. Recent business activity has led to remarkable investments in infrastructure, technology and knowledge and to high economical profits through exports of the products.
The small production of flathead grey mullet (Mugil cephalus) in lagoons, mainly in western Greece, targets mainly at the production of avgotaraxo, or egg-roe preserved in brine, a local delicacy.
There is also a significant production of bivalve mollusc species, mainly mussels and oysters that in 2008 totaled 21 200 tonnes (source Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food) but in value represented less than 3 percent of the total aquaculture production for that year.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Greece according to FAO statistics:
There are a number of central fish markets in Greece, the biggest being the Ichthyoskala near Athens; large aquaculture companies will sell a part of their production through it, mainly to Greek-based customers. The export markets are usually based on direct contact with customers abroad that send their own trucks to collect the fish product or through the use of own or outsourced means of transportation to take the product to the customer abroad.
Since 1999, most of the larger companies have obtained ISO 9001 certification in a move to add consumer confidence to the quality of the aquaculture product. This has also been a requirement by many of the large supermarket chains, as has certification to other relevant standards such as those relating to health and safety, for example in HACCP (Hazard and Critical Control Point program). National organisations have also come up with their own certification schemes, such as the AGROCERT which is associated to the Ministry of Agriculture.
During the last two-year period, the establishment and modernization of processing units of fishing products was greatly supported. These units include packing of fresh fish (mainly sea bass and sea bream), shellfish processing plants and especially freezing chambers and centres of distribution and marketing.
All processing units were funded through the Operational Programme for Fisheries 2000-2006, only if they had installed self-monitoring system (HACCP) and possessed certification according to ISO standards.
Greek consumers show a clear concern and reluctance about eating farmed fish, especially for marine species produced in Greece. The reasons for this are mostly due to a concern about fish feeds, in view of the recent worldwide problems related to issues such as dioxins in chickens, mad-cow disease and foot-and-mouth disease. An effort to promote fishing products began in March 2007, aiming at publishing leaflets with useful information to consumers, about sea bass and sea bream. The program included advertisements in television channels, radio stations and regional newspapers. There were also attendances at food and beverage fairs and guidance was given to people who produce and sell aquaculture species in order to attract consumer’s interest.
There was a second program held by the Consumer’s Institute, a non-govermental organisation (NGO). Information meetings were held in various regions and production and broadcasting of television and radio messages took place. The program aimed at informing consumer about the prevailing national and local names.
Both promotional projects (aquaculture species, consumer’s information) were completed in December 2009 and were co-financed by the European Union.
The per capita fish consumption in Greece is around 25 kg per annum (FAO) and of these 2.1 kg are seabass and seabream. This means that the overall annual fish consumption in Greece is around 250 000 tonnes for a population of around 10 million, and that aquaculture contributes less than 10 percent. The predicted trend is one of slow growth over the next few years (Stirling Report, 2004).
Trout culture, on the other hand, tends to follow the traditional patterns of small family-run businesses with low costs and low production volumes, but as mentioned above, the significance of the sector is very limited.
This department is responsible for the definition of the National Aquaculture Strategy, the allocation of production quotas and, through the EU funding programs, it manages all the national and European Union (EU) funds allocated to the sector. At a regional level the Prefectures are responsible for licensing aquaculture operations as well as allocating coastal and sea areas for use by the operating companies. The regional veterinary services, also part of the Prefectures, are responsible for health and safety aspects of operations and act through frequent checks at farms on operating procedures and hygiene conditions.
Greek marine aquaculture producers are associated in the Federation of Greek Mariculture. This organization has as its main objective the coordination of marine aquaculture production in Greece and it serves as a partner in the definition of national policy regarding the sector.
The area under the Operational Programme for Fisheries’ Sector 2007-2013 that concerns aquaculture is specified under PRIORITY AXIS 2 “aquaculture, inland fishing, fisheries and processing and marketing of fisheries products”, which has the following objectives:
National Aquaculture Legislation Overview - Greece
Apart from these centres, many Universities and Technological Institutes in Greece include departments and laboratories which specialise in aquaculture research. These are:
Technology and performance. The increasingly competitive environment that is the industrial aquaculture production of seabass and seabream is forcing companies to reduce production costs. This is happening to some extent through the adoption of economies of scale but needs to proceed in future through the acquisition and implementation of new production technologies. This is one of the policy areas mentioned above and is actively promoted by government policy. Many fish farms have now acquired automated feeding systems and there is a trend for larger cages, mimicking the trends in the salmon and trout industries. However, most small companies, (producing <500 tonnes/year) have not invested in new technologies and are based on manual labour for most of the farm operations. Also, and compared with the salmon or trout industries, the seabass and seabream farms use very little technology for biomass management, feeding optimisation, grading, etc.
Species. There is strong pressure for the diversification of the aquaculture sector although most of the "new species" produced so far are too close to seabass and seabream to have a significantly different commercial position. Therefore they are not true alternatives and the sector needs to keep looking. Recently and in collaboration with Spanish and Australian companies, some tuna farming (capture based aquaculture) has started in the Western part of the country, also at least one company is producing some quantities of common sole (Solea solea). Both these species are truly new 'products' and should be promoted. Species like drums (Umbrina spp.) or larger sizes of seabass could open the market to filleted fish products although their production is still limited.
Marketing and consumer acceptance. Farmed fish is still an excellent food from a health and nutrition aspect and the fast, unplanned growth in production together with poor marketing and consumer relations has lead to it being perceived as a low value commodity. During the last 4–5 years companies have started to take these matters more into consideration and have adopted health and safety schemes (HACCP), quality schemes (ISO 9001) and other certification schemes (such as AGROCERT). Also there are plans for a marketing/awareness campaign to promote the industry and its product both domestically and abroad. There has been no significant success in the branding of aquaculture products in the seabass and seabream industry although labelling and traceability schemes are being given careful consideration, including the individual labelling of the fish.
The environment. The environmental impact of aquaculture is a difficult topic in Greece as the industry often finds itself in conflict for space with the tourism industry. A methodology for assessing the environmental impact of aquaculture operations has been developed and there is legislation to implement such checks. So far, however, these aspects are still poorly followed although the trend is for this to change.
GRC Review of Fisheries in OECD countries, 2008-2009
Operational Programme “FISHERIES 2007-2013”
Stirling Institute of Aquaculture. 2004. Study of the market for aquaculture produced lubina y dorada species. Report to the European Commission, DG Fisheries.
Christofiloiannis, P. 2001. The use of antibiotics in aquaculture. PhD Thesis, University of Stirling.
FAO. 2005. Aquaculture production, 2003. Year book of Fishery Statistics - Vol.96/2. Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.