One man’s vision to promote aquaculture in Greece

By Maria Flip
SeaWestNews

As far as the future is concerned, I am planning to use my knowledge and skills to work on aquacultures in Greece – Manos Zouroufidis

Manos Zouroufidis wants to help Greece make the aquaculture industry a pillar of its national economy and a critical vehicle to help replenish Mediterranean stocks. It is estimated that in the next 10 years, the aquaculture industry in Greece has the potential to add €1 billion in gross value added exports and create 48,000 new jobs. Of the 1,045 aquaculture facilities in Greece, 36 percent are marine fish-farm sites. Manos Zouroufidis recently completed his Bachelor’s degree studies in Aquaculture at the University of Thessaly, and is currently enrolled in a Master’s degree program in Oceanography at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. He tells SeaWestNews in this Q&A why he picked a career in aquaculture.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in a small city in Northern Greece called Kozani, which is situated near the Egnatia Highway that connects the coast of the Ionian Sea with Thessaloniki and the Turkish borders.

What drew you to aquaculture?

As a child, biology captivated me because of the focus it has on life all around me, and its evolution. I grew up in Kozani, and we visited my parents’ village every year, so I was always in contact with nature, animals and sea life.
I love the element of water and consequently the sea…that is primarily the reason I decided to follow this profession. The protection of the various endangered species and sustainable development are parts that have drawn me into the area of aquaculture. As I studied the sea, I became very interested to learn more about a field that is heavily affected by recent marine explorations and interactions between marine species.

Although the study of aquaculture is not really popular in Greece, in the sense that not many people are interested in such studies, I would say this field has a lot to offer in the near future and it resonates with my interests, which is protecting the environment and preserving the variety of sea life.

What’s an average day in aquaculture like for you?

I am not working in the field quite yet, but my internship has been really enlightening. I was an intern at the National Marine Park of Alonissos and North Sporades, which is the nature reserve for a series of terrestrial and marine species living in the Mediterranean Sea, including hundreds of plants and animals, as well as remarkable archaeological and historical monuments.

The National Marine Park of Alonissos and Northern Sporades was the first marine park established in Greece and is currently the largest marine protected area in Europe. It is a member of the MedPAN (Network of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean) and its most important priority is the protection of the seal species of Monachus monachus, commonly known as the Mediterranean monk seal.

During my time at the park I participated in a marine expedition exploring various species of dolphins in the Aegean Sea.

So, through my time at the Park I had the chance to get a deeper look into diverse sectors of aquaculture. I was able to experience how it feels to be in direct contact with various organisms that I had already studied in the University. It was great getting to use all the knowledge I had gained from my studies.

What is your Thesis?

My thesis is on breeding of species that haven’t yet been systematically inserted in the process of aquaculture. As well as of Ichthyopathology, which is the study of the diseases of the fish.

Is there a single project you would like to work on, one day?

My focus right now is completing my studies and participating in various University papers and projects. As far as the future is concerned, I am planning to use my knowledge and skills to work on aquacultures in Greece. Furthermore, I would like to concentrate on alternative methods of breeding that will change what aquaculture looks like in Greece.

Throughout my current studies, I am trying to learn as much as I can about the different fields that oceanography consists of, so I can have recourse to one particular area.  

At the moment, I am paying close attention to Ichthyopathology and all its interconnections with aquaculture. Ichthyopathology is the science that supports the health and wellbeing of the fish through the prevention and the effective treatment of existing and new diseases. It aims to protect the bred animals (as living organisms) and at the end of the line to protect the people that are going to select and insert these fish in their diet. Generally, it is the basis for any breeding effort.

Are there many types of fish being farmed in Greece?

In Greece, there are some specific types of aquaculture species, in particular, the species commonly known as seabass and gilt-head (sea) bream. There are also freshwater fish like rainbow trout, and some shellfish. However, I would like to focus more on alternative, not so popular types of aquaculture species, such as amberjack and the common dentex.

What is the general sentiment about aquaculture in Greece?
Well, first of all, aquaculture is a very important branch of the Greek economy. The country has a leading role exporting aquaculture fish, mainly seabass and rainbow trout. Fish are an important part of the Mediterranean diet and many times the Greeks prefer aquaculture fish better, since it provides the consumer with fresh fish, and quality competitive products.

The majority of people support fish breeding as an alternative dietary source. However, a lot of times questions are raised on the quality and handling of the fish. This is a result of the awareness of the consumers and the consolidation of animal rights. So, I would say, they are more against unethical ways of aquaculture, than they are against aquaculture.

Would you say the general population is fully aware of, and for, aquaculture?

There is not a definitive answer to this. For the majority of the consumers that choose fish as a dietary source, aquaculture is more a concern of price. Quality, especially during the crisis years, was secondary and aquaculture was a way to keep eating fish.  In the recent years though, environmental awareness is rising and people are informed more now of what aquaculture is. As a result, the conditions of breeding are becoming better and better, through the combination of effort and result. 

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