Frequently Asked Questions
1. QUALITY OF AQUACULTURE FISH
Q: Do aquaculture fish benefit our health?
A: Aquaculture fish are healthy and nutritious, and in many cases, the freshest fish consumers can get their hands on at any given time.
The fact that they are farmed based on order intakes often makes them even fresher than wild fish. They are also safer in terms of their origin, because they are grown in controlled environments. They have some 170 calories per 100gr, 9% fat (compared to wild fish that have 2% fat), while other fish like salmon, herrings, sardines, eels, tuna and mackerels reach 15% fat.
The fat in fish is full of Omega-3 fatty acids the so-called “good” fat, proven to boost our organisms, and specifically our cardiovascular systems. In addition to amino acids and fats, fish contain a breadth of vitamins, such as A and D, as well as those of the B complex (B1, B2, B3 and B12), They also contain basic metals and trace elements like calcium, phosphorus, zinc and iodine.
As such, aquaculture fish are an excellent option for a healthy and balanced diet, as they are produced under strict quality regulations.
Q: Why choose aquaculture fish over wild fish?
A: Aquaculture fish have a high nutritional value and contain a larger quantity of Omega-3 fatty acids than wild fish. They are available in fewer than 24 hours from the moment they are farmed to the various points of sale, as they are farmed based on order intakes. They also maintain a high level of quality and freshness, as well as a competitive price, year-round.
Aquaculture fish are proven fresh, as they are cropped based on order intakes. Whenever an order is placed, the fish are immediately cropped from the farms and the packaging and delivery processes is put into action. This process guarantees the fish will always reach the consumers fresh.
Q: Do security controls guarantee my nutritional safety?
A: The food safety controls in aquaculture fish are incessant. Other than the fish themselves, we control the waters they are farmed in, their feed, and any surface they may come into contact with. Independent certification bodies and official food safety controls conducted by public authorities and universities also ensure our processes are certified. All of the above proves the guarantee of quality and ensure the consumer.
2. COMPARISON TO WILD FISH, AND BEST PRACTICES
Q: How do aquaculture fish compare to wild fish? How much time does it take for fish to reach the sales size after they are hatched and farmed?
Α: The farming period between the hatching of and the moment it is cropped lasts approximately 2 years (around 22 to 26 months, based on the farming area and period of year). From the moment it is cropped, said fish will reach a point of retail sales within hours.
Nutritional value and freshness
Many studies have proven the high nutritional value of fats (fatty acids) that fish contain in our daily diets.
In comparing famed fish to fisheries fish, we come to realize that aquaculture farmed fish have a higher quantity of Omega-3 fatty acids than the corresponding wild fish.
Aquaculture fish are certainly the freshest fish consumers can buy, precisely because they are cropped based on order intakes, for a certain quantity of fish, cropped in special thermo isolated tanks with ice and water, jumpstarting their packaging process (in hi-tech automated packaging units, built under strict hygiene regulations), and their delivery to points of sale in special refrigerator trucks.
Hygiene and Traceability
Aquaculture fish are hygienically safe in terms of their farming origins. They are farmed in a certified and controlled environment for marine aquaculture, under the supervision of trained scientists (ichthyologists, veterinarians) and always according to strict quality regulations.
The fish are cropped with the use of nets and immersed immediately in tanks with slurry –ice which helps in the immediate drop of their temperature and keeps them healthy During this process, we maintain the so-called “cold chain,” meaning these fish (a highly perishable food –stuff), are kept frozen at appropriate temperatures, guaranteeing they reach consumers at various points of sale (grocery stores, fish markets) in a state of extra freshness in no-time.
You may find all this information on the box labels that contain the fish during their delivery. Consumers may inquire and find out when fish were farmed, where they were packaged, and then contact the relevant producers.
What is traceability
Traceability is a process put in place in aquaculture that requires us to note down detailed information at every step during fish production, including the breeding, hatching, and rearing of the young fish, their farming in the sea, their feed, their cropping, packaging and delivery to the point of sale. That way, we may find out every product’s “history” until it reaches your table, and guarantee it is kept a safe foodstuff and with high nutritional value.
Q: What is the difference between the conventional diet for common Sea bass or Sea bream and the organic ones?
Α: The differences concern the organic fish, as to the certified origin of their ingredients and the certification of these same. That is, that the plant ingredients of their fish feed are organic, that the other raw materials of these feeds are certified obtained using Sustainability practices and that the applied method of farming these fish is the certified Good Organic Production Practice.
3. FISH FEED
Q: What is aquaculture fish fed with?
A: Aquaculture fish are nourished with a balanced fish feed diet that is comparable to the dietary habits and needs of all wild fish. Fish feed gives farmed fish the necessary proteins and fats that contribute to their growth. Fish meal and fish oils are used as the main source of protein and fats.
The production process includes the processing of raw materials (mainly fish meal and fish oils), as well as the addition of cereal, vitamins and minerals (essential for growth), and finally starch for the mixing of the ingredients. These materials are not genetically modified.
The raw materials used in organic fish feed are also certified organic and result by applying sustainable production practices.
Q: Are wild fish populations endangered due to their use in farming of aquaculture fish?
A: Fish feed production is conducted under strict fishing regulations to protect the natural resources of the sea. Fish meal and fish oils come about after the processing (thermal and milling) of certain wild fish, which are mainly caught in the southern Pacific and northern Atlantic Oceans.
These fish are members of very large populations that multiply fast and in great numbers, grow rapidly and have a short life cycle. They have little commercial value due to the large percentage of bone they are formed, making them unsuitable for consumption.
They are caught in large quantities and are an excellent source of protein and fish oils, not only contributing to the needs of global aquaculture, but also to Animal husbandry and farming in general (livestock and aviculture).
As such, the conversion rate of these fishery fish into farmed fish does not surpass 1.2Kg/1Kg of farmed fish, while at the same time is made use of the by-products from processing of edible fish are utilized.
Q: What quantity of wild fish is necessary for the production of aquaculture fish? How do you guarantee the protection of the environment and the lack of harm over wild fish populations?
Α: Fish feed does not contain fish meal and/or fish oils that originate from the list of vulnerable or endangered or critically endangered species of fish, according to the IUCN red list of endangered species, nor do they contain ingredients originating from the same fish species.
Fish meal and fish oils used in fish feed:
- Come from fishing zones that are subject to an Approved Species Conservation Planning for the protection of wild populations from extinction.
- In combination with fishmeal and fish oils, flour from soybean, corn and wheat crops are used. The feed is supplemented with minerals and vitamins, to fully meet the nutritional needs of the fish.
- Do not contain genetically modified organisms.
- The conversion rate from caught fish to farmed fish does not exceed 1.2Kg /1Kg of farmed fish, because the by-products of edible fish processing are utilized as well.
Q: Does the processing destroy the nutrients of the fish feed raw materials? Are farmed fish which are fed these feed of the same nutritional value as wild fish?
Α: Modern technology and technical know-how in fish feed and farmed fish production units guarantees stability in the presence of these positive properties and nutrients in aquaculture fish.
Precisely because artificial fish feed has fishmeal as its main raw material, which comes from wild fish with a corresponding profile of nutrients, proteins and mainly polyunsaturated fatty acids, these valuable properties that wild fish has as a foodstuff are retained and transferred to the farmed ones and determine their composition .
At times farmed fish have a higher content of omega-3 fatty acids than the corresponding (same species) wild ones, they also have a standard quality all year round and this is because they have daily access to a sufficient amount of a balanced diet.
Q: Are animal by-products used in fish feed?
Α: It is well known that all animals require dietary protein; in fact they require a source of balanced available amino acids.
The decline in wild fish stocks combined with their variable availability and high price of high quality fishmeal for many uses in aquaculture industry have led to interest in identifying and developing alternative sources of amino acids (proteins) mainly.
The development in production and processing technologies have improved the efficiency 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 digestible animal proteins and fats.
The form and composition of by-products require their formation and modulation so that their use and introduction into fish feed is effective to meet the nutrient demand of fish. That is, their contained nutrients are exploited, mainly the proteins, specifically in the form of amino acids.
The availability of by-products for integration into aquatic animal feed (fish, shrimp) provides producers with additional flexibility in feed formulation and reduces dependence on fishmeal from fisheries.
For this reason animal by-products are potentially an option to be used in the composition of fish feed.
4. GENERAL ISSUES OVER THE WELFARE OF FISH
Q: Are the producers interested in the way the fish are produced and are they willing to take into account their welfare?
Α: The farmed fish are monitored by a adequate number of staff that has been properly trained and has enough experience over the fish organism and the farming system practiced and are able to:
(a) identify whether or not 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 health.
Stress prevention for fish is enhanced by applying appropriate zootechnical farming practices to avoid adverse welfare conditions, in line with the implementation of the corresponding Fish From Greece standard (private certification standard) pillar.
Q: What are the Good Production Practices to improve Fish Welfare and how production activities that lead to stress, pain, or suffering are reduced or changed, in order to prove the producers work at a high level of care?
Α: The fish are handled only by the competent, trained personnel, who work under the supervision of the producer.
The number of fish and production units (such as tanks, sea pens etc. located in the same area) is such that, the producer is able to ensure that the organisms are properly cared for and their welfare is ensured, including their health.
Daily controls are performed which focuses on factors that adversely affect fish well-being such as signs of abnormal behavior, injuries, poor health or increased mortality and water quality (at least turbidity, oxygen, temperature, pH and salinity).
All relevant legislation and Good Practices are followed. There are written procedures and staff training. The issue is a subject to be controlled of certification with the standard Fish From Greece (private certification standard) through the requirements of 2 specific pillars.
5. DRUG USE
Q: Are medicinal substances used in aquaculture? What are they, and how are they used?
Α: Fish farming takes prevention measures to protect fish from diseases, in order to ensure the excellent health of the fish in its production units.
Our principal purpose, though, is to guarantee, that the fish farming good conditions are ensured by maintaining an excellent environment for fish growth with highly controlled conditions, thus removing all the chances of being infected by possible pathogenic microorganisms.
If, however, the disease occurs and the administration of drugs or other medicinal substances is required, this process then takes place only following a vet prescription and after all necessary medical examinations have concluded.
Q: What are the preventive measures to avoid the need for medication?
Α: The main drugs used in fish farming are related to the prevention and prophylaxis of diseases and are nothing more than vaccines and immunostimulants.
The use of vaccines decreases the incidence of disease, protects the welfare of farmed fish and eliminates the need for future use of antibiotics, or other drugs. These types of substances present no danger to consumers, as they do not accumulate in fish organisms, and metabolize quickly.
Thanks to the wide use of vaccines in aquaculture nowadays, diseases are very rare, and there is generally no need to use other drugs.
The vaccine is a biological product that aims to sensitize the body’s defense system against specific pathogenic microorganisms, in order to acquire immunity. It is not chemical, it is not a medicine and it does not harm the organism. Vaccines contain a dead pathogen responsible for a certain disease, which triggers the organisms’ immune systems to identify it as a foreign substance, and then create antibodies to protect against the disease it causes.
Q: Do you use antibiotics?
Α: If a disease is noticed on a certain fish (usually in cases in which said fish was not vaccinated), we ONLY use antibiotics approved by EOF (National Organization for Medicines), which have ONLY been prescribed by a Veterinarian Fish Pathologist who is an expert on fish pathology, and ONLY after all necessary medical examinations have concluded.
Q: Do drugs remain in fish flesh? Are they transferred to the consumer?
Α: Not all pharmaceutical substances are absorbed.
In any case, as in other species of animals intended for human consumption, the ‘’withdrawal period’’ means waiting time after therapeutic treatments is strictly followed in order to ensure the complete absence of even traces of drugs from the flesh of the fish.
At this point, we should note that there is a key difference in fish farming compared to land animals farming for the production of foodstuff of animal origin.
The difference is that fish are raised in seawater, which is controlled by producers, especially at the early stages of fish when fish are more prone to diseases.
At these stages, the fish are still raised on land installations in completely controlled conditions, where the incoming water is fully treated (retention by filters, UV treatment), during which all possible pathogens are removed. The transfer to the open sea farms is done in sizes where the fish have built enough immune-resistance to pathogens and in addition are vaccinated, with the result that the incidence of diseases is minimal and consequently the possibility of using drugs is very reduced.
In any case, the fish are cropped only after several weeks have passed from any treatment so that there are no antibiotic residues in their flesh and this is proven by regular analyzes for food safety reasons.
Other drugs (e.g. hormones and growth promoters)
Growth promoters and hormones are not used in Aquaculture for fish intended for human consumption. There is no need to use such substances to stimulate weight gain, because in terms of growth as the normal genetic potential of fish ensures rapid growth, short production cycle and feed conversion in levels much better than other farmed species.
The case over formol
Formol is an old trade name for formaldehyde-containing solutions, and has been popularized by the common name “formol,” or “formalin.
It was a very old veterinary widely used aqueous dilute solution used as an antiparasitic for all animal species and for disinfection.
Today its administration as a veterinary medicine is allowed in processed formulation, if it is necessary for the health of fish (external parasites) and only with a veterinary prescription. In this case a pharmaceutical formulation containing formaldehyde is used licensed by the EOF. It is permitted only for external use and is not absorbed by the flesh of the fish and therefore, by law, no checks for residues in the flesh are required.
Formaldehyde itself is a biodegradable substance and so is this formulation.
This formulation, which also contains formaldehyde in processed form, is also permitted for net disinfection, but is in no way allowed to go into the environment as biocide.
In case it is used as Vet medication, after its use it is passed to wastewater biological cleaning and in 24 hours time it has evaporated.
Q: Does the marine environment affect the growth of sea farmed fish? Are studies being carried out for the suitability of the location of the production units?
Α: Fish farming is an activity that depends directly on the marine environment. It is therefore in its interest to protect farmed organisms from any undesirable quality of the sea and the area in which it operates. The quality of the farming water plays a leading role in the success of the farming. Each area has its own environmental profile in terms of water quality parameters and each species of fish its own requirements. It is necessary and indeed the water quality parameters are included in each environmental study, before the installation of each production unit.
Q: Does aquaculture affect the marine environment and the growth of fish, and if yes, how?
Α: The impact of fish farming on water quality is minimal and mainly involves the accumulation of feed residues and feces at the bottom of the sea where the sea pen (farming cage) is located. The EU has funded a similar study in recent years and has concluded that the effect is indeed locational, that is, right underneath aquaculture units.
However, it is clear that no heavy metals or other pollutants are used for the production of fish. In addition, the law does not allow cages to be placed above <sea meadows>, i.e. algae, so nothing lies below the cages.
Q: Are studies being conducted over the impact of fish production farms on the environment?
A: The water column underneath and around floating establishments are checked daily and with scientific methods, so that no inevitable harm is caused to the environment, which, if ruined, will cause severe damages not only to the sea organisms but to the fish in cages as well.
To avoid such an undesirable development, annual measurement schedules are created and daily measurements are made to determine the maintenance of the degree of good condition of the environment, around and under the cages.
However, to valid these measurements, analyzes are performed in external certified laboratories and in addition, independent certification bodies are invited to inspect and certify compliance.
Q: Are there cases of environmental accidents? How are they handled?
A: Anything else that burdens the environment in which the activity operates is collected and measured .Based on the annual environmental situation of the area actions are taken to reduce the impact to the next year.
It is proven by studies that the marine environment is fully restored within a few months of the removal of fish farming activity.
It is a fact, however, that aquaculture units in Greece lie in regions with great depths and strong currents, meaning that the sea is not polluted and its biodiversity flourishes.
Q: Does aquaculture contribute to sustainable development? Is marine biodiversity protected against aquaculture’s operations?
A: All activities that preserve the sustainability of the marine farming environment and sustain us to farm fish are part of what is generally called Sustainable Development.
Sustainable development practices include the prevention of any activities that may harm the marine, terrestrial, aerial and social environment.
Measurements of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions harmful to the atmosphere and annual greenhouse gas footprint are part of planning and actions to reduce them. (CARBON DIOXIDE RELEASES)
Our plan also includes reducing any significant pollution that originates from our activities (e.g. plastics, wood parts, engine maintenance materials, chemical and oil spills, animal by -products) through recycling and better ecological management.
An integral part of our plan remains testing for the stability of our establishments and marine gears, for which we conduct rigorous studies prior to building them, as well as routine measurements that test their durability. These act preemptively to ensure no fish escape from their sea cages and affect the sea’s natural biodiversity.
No genetically modified fish are farmed in aquaculture.
In the context of protecting the sea’s natural biodiversity, there are workplace rules, trainings, programs and measurements in place that prevent fish escaping from their cages, protection of phytoplankton and other terrestrial or marine animals (e.g. seagulls), especially those that are endangered. Any persecution or deadly action against wildlife is strictly forbidden.
Fish feed production is conducted under strict fishing regulations to protect the natural resources of the sea. Fish meal and fish oils come about after the processing (thermal and milling) of certain wild fish, which are mainly caught in the southern Pacific and northern Atlantic Oceans.
Fish meal and fish oils in fish feed originate from fish that have been caught in fisheries belonging to an Approved Species Conservation Planning that guarantees the safety of endangered populations.
This concerns some species of wild fish that are mainly caught in the southern Pacific and northern Atlantic Oceans. These fish are members of very large populations that multiply fast and in great numbers, grow rapidly and have a short life cycle. They have little commercial value due to the large percentage of bone they are formed structure, making them unsuitable for consumption.
They are farmed in large quantities and are an excellent source of protein and fish oils, not only contributing to the needs of global aquaculture, but also to animal byproduct production and farming in general (livestock and aviculture).
The social environment.
Fish produced through fish farming is usually a much cheaper source of protein than other species, as it contains important nutrients for the human organism.
It is produced locally, improves the nutritional adequacy in an area, it is a source of employment and income for the local community and this is the impact on the social and human environment.
Farmed marine fish are among the most critical exportable Greek foods and beverages, both in terms of quantities and in terms of their prospects, referring to the growth of their exports in recent years, a fact that is included in the wealth created by Greeks.
Added to this anthropocentric environment is the fact that global seafood produced this way represents 15 to 20% of the protein consumption of 2.9 billion people worldwide.
The environmental CO2 footprint (or the contribution to the greenhouse effect).
This enters into another environmental parameter, the energy efficiency. In terms of carbon emissions, the production of proteins from aquaculture is much more efficient, i.e. less polluting, than many other forms of protein production. This is referred to as the “feed conversion ratio” (FCR) and measures the amount of feed input required compared to the weight gained by the animal. This ratio for beef is between 6: 1 and 10: 1, which means that you need up to ten times the amount of food to produce the equivalent amount of beef. The value is lower for pigs (2.7: 1 – 5: 1) and chickens (1.7: 1 – 2: 1). However, for farmed fish, this ratio is often 1: 1 or even lower because more alternative and efficient solutions are used, such as such as utilization of fish by-products from processing suitable for human consumption, fishery by-products and fish of low commercial value.
Biodiversity and pressure reduction in fisheries.
This refers to the fact of overfishing and the protection of marine resources.
Considering that about 1 billion people on earth find the main source of protein in the sea (World Health Organization), aquaculture reduces the consumption of wild fish and the overexploitation of this extremely vulnerable resource. Overfishing is a major environmental problem due to the growing global demand for fish. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) more than 70% of the world’s wild fish species are either fully exploited or depleted. This disrupts ecosystems by removing predators or prey from the oceans. According to the new fisheries policy, 1/3 of the fish we eat come from illegal fishing. Huge lost profits for states, reckless destruction of fish stocks and great loss for legal fishermen. The proper management of the effects of fish farming is an easier, more measurable and more effective way than controlling fisheries in the vast open oceans. Fish meal is fish food made from many smaller fish that are discarded and not promoted to the consumer. In addition, when raising fish, fish farmers watch the sea, clean it of plastic and give us fishery-production data.
Genetically Modified Fish is not produced in Greek fish farming.
Fish meal and fish oil in fish feed come from fish caught in fishing grounds and fisheries under an Approved Management Plan to protect wildlife from extinction. It concerns certain species of pelagic fish, which have little commercial value due to the high percentage of bones they contain and therefore are not selected for human consumption. They are caught in large quantities and are an important source of excellent quality protein and fish oil, not only for the needs of global fish farming, but also for animal production in general (livestock, poultry).
7. APPROVED AREAS OF ORGANIZED DEVELOPMENT OF AQUACULTURE (POAY)
Q: Are fish farms located in coastal areas without an official plan? Do they affect other activities in the region?
Α: Greece has identified some Aquaculture Development Areas (PAY), which are “coastal regions that meet certain criteria for the development of aquaculture.”
A key tool for the implementation of this framework is the provision that within these PAYs, there are Areas for the Organized Development of Aquaculture (POAY), i.e. organized coastal areas within which aquaculture units are set up.
The benefits are that, with the rational management of water resources, with the application of environmentally friendly methods and techniques in order to ensure the sustainable development of the aquaculture industry, at the same time there is support for actions and practices that improve the quality and hygiene of aquaculture products.
Also included is cooperation with local Public and Private Stakeholders of all activities to address aquaculture issues, training of employees in the industry to upgrade their role and productivity, with the aim of strengthening the Local Economy.