Farmed sea bream and sea bass, Greece and Italy compared


The recent investigation by ‘Being Animals’ into the breeding of sea bream and bass (sea bass) in Greece has turned the spotlight back on fish welfare. A highly topical issue as aquaculture is set to overtake fisheries. And saving money, unfortunately, has its costs.

Aquaculture in Greece, the investigation of ‘Being Animals’

The animal rights activists’ investigation exposes overcrowding in cages on Greek farms, animal suffering and the systematic administration of antibiotics ,theprimary cause of antibiotic resistance. Culling in turn would result in unnecessary suffering. (1) Practices against which ‘Being Animals’ launches a petition on Change.

‘We call on the large-scale retail trade (GDO) to make a concrete commitment to solve these problems, which have also been confirmed as such by Efsa, Oie and the European Union. Though silent, the suffering of millions of fish cannot go unheard, and there is an urgent need to take action now, binding supplier farms to adopt policies that will end the agony of fish.’ (Being Animals)

The drug of price

The drug of price-which still animates GDO purchases, in spite of much talk about sustainability-cannot resist farmed Greek fish. Which costs less precisely because of the drastic savings on animal welfare and environmental protection:

the density of fish in the tanks, in Greek fish farms, is close to 40 kg/m3. More than double the standard set fororganic aquaculture (15 kg/m3) and well above that in vogue on farms that aim for quality production (as in Italy and Croatia). And the greater the density, the more antibiotics are required to prevent the spread of disease,

‘The farms I follow in Italy never achieve a density higher than 20-22 kg/m3. Some plants are certified antibiotic free, others are not but do not resort to drugs precisely because of the optimal living conditions of the fish. And they are subject to very frequent audits, 30 days a year’ (Maurizio Ribezzo, Innovatio S.r.l.).

– cheap feeds used in Greece and Turkey, but not also in Italy, contain fat from land animals, GMO proteins and hemoglobin,

pools are installed, literally, just a few steps from the shoreline. An inconceivable assumption in Italy, where farms are only allowed offshore, even several miles from the coast, to protect the ecosystem.

Asymmetries and procurement

The asymmetry of standards of aquaculture applied in the various European countries – that we have Already reported in salmon farms – resurfaces with brutality. On the other hand, aquaculture in Italy cannot cover domestic demand. ‘To eat only fish raised in Italy, we would have to reduce consumption by 7-8 times‘, explains Claudio Mazzini, Freschissimi sales manager at Coop Italy.

‘Let’s raise health’ is Coop Italy’s best expression in aquaculture, after organic production. Only Italian fish, raised without antibiotics for the past 12 months, with selected feed and limited density. But even Coop cannot give up imports on other private label product lines, accounting for 45 percent of supplies. With privilege to Croatia (25%), where products have high quality as well. To follow. Greece (20 percent) and Malta (10 percent).

Italy-Greece, sea bream and sea bass compared

‘At the hypermarket the same fish costs 5 per kg if Turkish, up to 7 euros if Greek, and 7 to 12 euros per kg if Italian. Turkey or Greece origin goes a lot among consumers, but only because of the lower prices. I have seen well-run plants in Albania, but fish from that country has no appeal in our market, so it goes elsewhere’ (Maurizio Ribezzo, Innovatio S.r.l.).

Farmed Greek fish cost less and yet, compared to Italian fish, turn out:

  • smaller and fatter, precisely because they result from rapid growth cycles in confined spaces. The average Hellenic size is 300-600 g, compared to the larger sizes (codified as 6-800 g, 800-1,000 g, >1000 g) more common in Italy,
  • less fresh. ‘In Italy, large-scale retailers require that fish arrive within 24 hours of capture on the sales counter. In contrast, fish from Greece takes one and a half days. The Turkish one 2-2.5 days. The designation is still ‘fresh fish,’ but the difference is not insignificant‘, Maurizio Ribezzo explains.


(1) The association mentions as irregular the water and ice killing system, which is instead mentioned as suitable, after electrical stunning, in the very Report of the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the possibility of introducing certain requirements concerning the protection of fish during killing. V.

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Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".