Greece’s farmed bass, bream bite back


Chris Dove, contributing editor, reporting from Malaga, Spain

Published on
September 7, 2011

Following last week’s report on the position of Turkey and Greece’s farmed bass and bream, SeafoodSource is turning its attention to seemingly contradictory statistics.

Gilthead sea bream (sparus aurata) and sea bass (dicentrarchus labrax) are the most intensively farmed fish species in the Mediterranean since springing to popularity in the early 1980s, seeing exponential growth in Greece, Turkey, France, Italy, Spain, Malta, Croatia, Cyprus, North Africa, Egypt and Israel.

According to Eurostat, total aquaculture production in Greece amounted to 114,888 metric tons live weight in 2008, with 252,286 and 152,260 metric tons live weight in Spain and Turkey, respectively (latest comparative figures). Between 1998 and 2007, Greek aquaculture output surpassed its four largest European Union competitors — Spain, France, Italy and the United Kingdom, increasing 90 percent by volume.

Greece continues its formidable resurgence as Europe’s premier farmed sea bream and sea bass producer, first developing advanced fish farming techniques and processes in ancient times. Sea bream, referred to as “dorade,” was devoted to Aphrodite goddess of beauty and was considered the most attractive, tastiest fish.

In Greece, the marketable size for sea bass is reached within 16 to 18 months with a faster growth rate for sea bream, compared to 24 months and 30 months in France for bream and bass, respectively. 

A review of organic aquaculture in Greece found that since 2008 “sea bass and sea bream from certified farms in Greece have been exported and channeled to large retail markets in Greece.” The review highlighted future prospects and challenges for the sector with regard to environmental sustainability, markets and certification.  

By contrast, the Turkish Statistical Institute recorded a fall in 2008 fish-farming output by 8.8 percent on the previous year.

A strategic industry supported by the Greek government, some 80 percent of Greek aquaculture production is exported mainly to Italy and Spain, with farmed bass and bream forming the second largest agricultural export after olive oil. Production costs are among Europe’s lowest, with sites located around the Greek coast, though more prevalent in central regions close to good infrastructure and export routes.

Nikos Louvaris, marketing and communication executive at Dias Aquaculture Group, Greece, clarified the current market position: “Turkstat and Eurostat suggest that Turkey’s 2011 exports to June decreased 13 percent for bass (2010 annual production 43,200 metric tons) and increased 53 percent for bream (2010 annual production 35,700 metric tons). Feed consumption and juvenile inputs for 2009-10 (Kontali 2011) have not shown a predicted increase [for Turkey] that could be more than 20 percent.”

Boosting public appreciation and global awareness of Greek sea bass and sea bream, the Federation of Greek Mariculture, Consulate General of Greece and the Trade Commissioner hosted a unique event in Toronto, Canada, last year, commissioning special exports of the species shipped to Toronto for a novel seafood aficionados’ event.

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