Scientific Projects and Research

With the aim of advancing Greek aquaculture and developing Guidelines of Good Practices in every sector of the industry, in compliance with the United Nations Environment Programme, the Basic Principles of Environmental Policy of HAPO, the requirements of Greek legislation, the European Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC, and International Standards of Environmental Sustainability, HAPO systematically invests in cooperation and the establishment of close relationships with the Scientific and Academic Community of the country for the implementation of research programs and scientific studies. This collaboration is an integral part of HAPO's activities, which also supports its future collaborators, today's students of the country, giving them the opportunity to study existing, new, and advanced techniques of the industry in practice.

Welfare of Mediterranean Fish - Guide to Best Practices and Assessment Indicators

HAPO collaborated with the Department of Biology at the University of Crete and developed the Guide for employees and workers in Greek marine aquaculture, aiming to perform tasks according to modern scientific knowledge for the welfare of farmed fish and the long-standing expertise in aquaculture. The guide has been adopted by the Ministry of Rural Development and Food and serves as the National Welfare Guide for Mediterranean farmed species in Greek aquaculture.

Do producers care about the way fish are produced before they become food for consumers, and do they take into account the welfare of the animals?

The farmed fish are monitored by a sufficient number of trained personnel with experience in fish husbandry and the farming system being used. They are able to: 

(a) recognize whether the fish are in good health,
(b) understand the significance of behavioral changes, and
(c) assess the suitability of the overall environment for the welfare of the fish, including their health.

Prevention of fish stress is reinforced by applying appropriate animal husbandry practices to avoid adverse welfare conditions, following the implementation of the corresponding welfare pillar in HAPO’s Private Certification Scheme Fish from Greece.

What are the Good Practices that improve fish welfare and how are activities that lead to stress, pain, or distress reduced or altered to demonstrate that they operate at a high level of care?

Fish are managed only by competent, trained personnel working under the supervision of the producer. The number of fish and production units (such as tanks, etc., located in the same area) is such that, under normal conditions, the producer can ensure that the organisms are properly cared for and their well-being is ensured, including their health. Inspection focuses on factors that negatively affect the welfare of fish and signs of abnormal behavior, injuries, poor health, or increased mortality, as well as water quality (at least turbidity, oxygen, temperature, pH, and salinity). All relevant legislation and Good Practices are followed. There are written procedures, staff training is conducted, and the issue is subject to inspection according to the two pillars in HAPO’s Private Certification Scheme Fish from Greece.

Modern Fish Feeds for Ensuring High Nutritional Value and Well-being of Marine Fish

HAPO collaborated with Dimitrios Barkas, Animal Production Agronomist, Nafsika Karakatsouli, Associate Professor at the Agricultural University of Athens, and Leonidas Papacharisis, Fisheries Technologist, MPhil and Member of HAPO’s Technical Committee, to conduct a study addressing consumers’ basic questions regarding how fish are fed at various stages of their development and the ingredients of fish feed.

Farmed fish are fed nutritionally balanced feed that replicates the dietary habits of wild fish. Fish feed gives farmed fish all the proteins and fats necessary for their growth. Fish meal and fish oils are the main sources of fatty acids and protein. The feed production process includes the preliminary processing of raw materials (mainly fish meal and fish oils), the addition of cereal grains, vitamins and minerals (essential for growth), as well as starch to help bind the ingredients. These raw materials are never genetically modified. The raw materials used in organic fish feed are also certified organic and are produced through sustainable practices.

Organic sea bream and organic sea bass differ in their diet, origin, and certification. The plant-based ingredients of their feed are organic, and the remaining raw materials of these feeds are sourced using sustainable practices and follow the principles of Good Agricultural and Aquaculture Practices as a method of their cultivation.

In order to protect marine resources, the fish used in feed manufacture are supplied from regulated fishing and is subject to strict. Fish meal and fish oils are obtained from the thermal processing and milling of certain pelagic species which are caught mainly in the southern Pacific and north Atlantic oceans, in fishing grounds subject to an Approved Management Plan that guarantees the safety of endangered populations. These fish form very large populations, multiply fast and in great numbers, grow rapidly and have a short life cycle. Due to their high percentage of bone, they have little commercial value and are not preferred for human consumption. They are an excellent source of high-quality proteins and fish oils, not only for the needs of global aquaculture but also for animal husbandry in general (livestock, poultry).

To safeguard the sustainability of the marine environment and biodiversity in fish farming areas, work regulations, training, programs, and measurements have been established to prevent fish escapes and protect marine plants and animals, especially protected species. Any form of harmful action or activity against wildlife is legally pursued.

The produced fish feeds do not contain fishmeal and/or fish oil derived from fish species classified as vulnerable, threatened, or critically endangered according to the IUCN Red List, nor do they contain ingredients sourced from other fish of the same genus. The fishmeal and fish oil used in the fish feeds originate from fishing grounds covered by an Approved Management Plan for the protection of wild populations from depletion.

The fishmeal and fish oil used in the fish feeds: 

  • Originate from fishing grounds covered by an Approved Management Plan for the protection of wild populations from depletion.
  • In combination with fishmeal and fish oil, flours from plant cultivations such as soybean, corn, and wheat are used. The feeds are supplemented with trace elements and vitamins to fully meet the nutritional needs of the fish.
  • They do not contain Genetically Modified Organisms.

The Fish In – Fish Out (FIFO) ratio, a measure of the efficiency with which wild feed fish are converted into farmed fish, does not exceed 1.2:1, which means that every 1.2 kg of wild fish used in feed produces 1 kg of cultured fish, due also to the utilization of fish processing by-products for human consumption. Fish feed does not contain fish meal and/or fish oils from species classified as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, nor do they contain ingredients originating from other fish of the same genus. The fish meal and fish oils used in aquaculture feed: Originate from fishing areas subject to an Approved IUCN – SSC Species Conservation Planning for the protection of wild populations from extinction.
Are used in combination with meal from soybean, corn and wheat crops. The feed is further supplemented with minerals and vitamins to fully meet the nutritional needs of the fish.
Do not contain genetically modified organisms.

Modern technology and know-how in fish feed production and aquaculture ensure that the nutrients and other beneficial properties are preserved in farmed fish.

Precisely because the main ingredient of artificial fish feed is fish meal, which comes from wild fish with a corresponding profile of nutrients, proteins and mainly polyunsaturated fatty acids, these valuable properties that wild fish have as a foodstuff are retained and passed on to the farmed fish, thereby determining their composition.Indeed, farmed fish sometimes have a higher content of omega-3 fatty acids than the corresponding (of the same species) wild fish. They also have a consistent quality all year round because they have daily access to a balanced diet in sufficient quantities.

All animals need dietary protein, or rather they need a well-balanced source of essential amino acids that are present in dietary proteins. The decline in wild fish stocks, their variable availability, and the generally high cost of quality fishmeal for many uses in aquaculture have increased interest in identifying and developing alternative sources of amino acids (proteins) in particular.Advances in production and manufacturing technologies have improved the yield of animal by-products from which high-quality products are produced under strict supervision as food ingredients. These products contain significant levels of protein and oils and provide a ready source of nutritious, easily digestible animal proteins and fats. The form and composition of by-products mean that they must be formulated and processed in such a way as to enable their effective use and incorporation into feed to meet the nutrient requirements of fish. In other words, the nutrients contained in the by-products are utilized, especially the proteins in the form of amino acids. The availability of by-products for incorporation into feed for aquatic animals (fish, shrimp) gives producers greater flexibility in feed formulation and reduces dependence on fish meal. For this reason, animal by-products are a potential option for use in the composition of fish feed.

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