Scientists from Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation took part in the recent meeting in Paris of the Advisory Council of the EU for Aquaculture in Europe. The main focus of the assembly was on promoting sustainability in EU aquaculture and Archipelagos Institute, as the only Greek member of the Advisory Council, provided its expertise in the research of the impacts of over-intensive aquaculture practices in Greece.

The Archipelagos Institute is in close collaboration with the European alliance Seas At Risk , which coordinates the joint interventions of the environmental organizations participating in the Advisory Council. Belen Quintana, the representative of Archipelagos Institute for the Advisory Council, stated: “Our common goal is to promote aquaculture practices that are truly sustainable, environmentally and socially, but also to combat over-intensive fish farming practices, which cause a significant impacts on ecosystems, marine resources, fisheries and tourism, while also producing low-quality products.”

Protected Posidonia meadows. A productive, healthy meadow (left) and a meadow degraded by adjacent aquaculture (right).

Aquaculture as a practice has its roots in ancient times, but the way it has been implemented in Greece over the last few decades – following management models of economists rather than fish farmers’ standards – has come to be another problematic industrial practice in Greece.  It is indicative that although many call it a “key industry of Greece”, the largest companies in the sector have massive debts in banks approaching 1 billion euros and are now under management by banks, even though they have received in the past years tens of millions in subsidies from EU funds.

Fortunately, however, there are alternatives to over-intensive, large scale aquaculture. In Greece there also exist medium sized fish farms that follow sustainable practices, produce high quality products, while also maintaining more jobs in areas where employment is limited. These sustainable companies have to face unfair competition from aquaculture corporations whose investment practices are based on debt accumulation which are then passed on to the banks and the public, while also frequently selling their products at rates below cost of production obstructing the efforts of the sustainable fish-farms.

Intensive and unsustainable fish farming drastically impacts our environment, our economy and our society as a whole. Archipelagos Institute’s mission is to protect the seas and through its participation in the Advisory Council of the EU for Aquaculture in Europe it promotes the development of sustainable aquaculture, minimizing their environmental footprint, which today, in many regions, degrades our seas.