NEWS

Concerns about health, quality evident when choosing bream from sea or farm

Fish from farms accounted for more than half of global fish consumption for the first time ever in 2008, a World Health Organization report shows. This trend is associated with measures that have been taken to protect fish farms and the fact that farmed fish cost as much as three times less than those caught in open waters. There are, however, questions about the quality of farmed fish. In Greece, fish caught in open waters still outnumber those taken from farms. «The estimated annual catch of fish from open waters in Greece is 200,000 tons, compared to 100,000 tons of farmed fish,» Yiannis Glavakis, European deputy and a member of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, told Kathimerini. Vangelis Fotakos, who sells farmed fish, explained that most of the output is exported to Europe. Seventy percent of the fish produced in Greek farms goes to France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal and recently to Albania. Greece also imports farmed fish, chiefly from Italy, Spain and Turkey. Some 40 percent of fish sold on the Greek market are now the product of farms. The price is what has attracted a growing number of Greeks to eat farmed fish. «A sea bream might cost 30 euros a kilo, compared with 8-10 euros for one produced on a farm,» said Michalis Liosis, president of the Piraeus fishmongers’ association. Many consumers, however, believe that the price disparity reflects a difference in quality. Some liken fish farming to intensive pig farming, where speed and profit play the leading role. The fish are raised in crowded enclosures and are fed systematically. «At the same time, they are given growth hormones to ward off diseases that would spread quickly through crowded farms,» explained Liosis. The aim is to fatten them up as quickly as possible so they can be sold quickly. «Farmed fish consume different food from their counterparts in the wild,» clinical dietician and nutrition specialist Dr Aimilia Vassilopoulou told Kathimerini. «In their natural environment, fish live on other, smaller fish, phytoplankton and a host of other things. But they won’t find that in fish farm enclosures.» So they are given feed manufactured from smaller fish that are caught in the open sea but are not used for human consumption. However, these smaller fish are often tainted by toxic substances in the sea and processing increases the toxicity, Vassilopoulou noted. «Recent studies have shown that salmon raised in fish farms contain dioxins in concentrations of up to 10 times as much as salmon caught in the wild. The cause is fish food,» she explained. Food high in fat, lack of movement and conditions in fish farms give the fish a different composition to those caught in the open sea. But, as Vassilopoulou pointed out, «dioxins have also been found in fish in the wild.»