With catch down 15 percent, Greek fishing firm Ensea concerned about Mediterranean overfishing

Ensea Owner Giannis Kaloudis Kougianos and Manager Pantelis Kaloudis
Ensea Owner Giannis Kaloudis Kougianos and Manager Pantelis Kaloudis are worried the family business may struggle due to overfishing harming the stocks they rely on | Photo by Cliff White/SeafoodSource
4 Min

Like the three generations of his family before him, Giannis Kaloudis Kougianos depends on the Mediterranean Sea for his livelihood.

But Kougianos said the sea is providing less these days, and it’s giving him cause for concern the family business won’t be in the family much longer.

“From my great grandfather to my grandfather to my father, we have always specialized in local wild fish. We have grown the business to 25 fishing vessels. We try to increase exports every year. But there is a problem in the last two to three years with the quantities of the catch. They decreased,” Kougianos told SeafoodSource at the 2024 Seafood Expo Global. “We don’t know why it happened, but we hope it [doesn’t] decrease more because the problem is big now.”

Based in Keratsini, Greece, Ensea sells fish in Athens as well as the fresh markets of Patra and Channia. Lots of local hotels and restaurants serve Ensea’s fish to the crowds that flock to Greece, which Kougianos said seems to become more popular for tourists every year.

“We are 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for our clients,” Kougianos said. “But now they’re wondering where the fish are, and why they are so expensive.”

Ensea’s fishermen are demanding more for their fish, because their costs are still rising even though they’re not catching as much. But since the Covid-19 pandemic, the tourists visiting Greece have not been willing to spend as much, meaning Kougianos is getting squeezed from his buyers as well.

“I hear complaining all the time, because the cost of everything is up. But we are the middle and so I try to speak to make everyone happy,” he said. “Everyone is struggling in Greece.”

The biggest declines have been in large pelagic fish, such as swordfish and amberjack. But even the anchovies and sardines being caught locally are getting smaller in size.

“You can see it every night in the fish markets,” Kougianos said.

Ensea has historically exported around 25 percent of its catch to Italy, the United States, Canada, and elsewhere in the European Union. But with less fish to sell, Kougianos is worried that side of his business will also evaporate.

Kougianos partially blames climate change for his losses, but most of his ire is directed toward unregulated fishing taking place elsewhere in the Mediterranean.

“The European Union take a lot of rules to protect the fish. But if you have other countries from Africa like Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey not following the rules, it affects everybody,” Kougianos said. “We are OK to follow the rules, but other countries don’t protect [anything]. If we don’t all have to follow the same laws, everybody suffers.”

Kougianos said he and his fellow fishermen in Greece are getting less positive about their future in the industry.

“We are hopeful people. Things change every month in the sea, so we always have a glimmer [of hope],” he said. “But right now, the situation is ugly.”

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