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Grow the fish; slow and with love.

Lara Barazi-Yeroulanos is CEO at Kefalonia Fisheries S.A.  Photo: Gorm K. Gaare

Lara Barazi-Yeroulanos is CEO at Kefalonia Fisheries S.A.  Photo: Gorm K. Gaare

BFM-INTERVIEW:  The aquaculture industry has tremendous potential for playing an active part in the future food supply. The dangers lies in not respecting what consumers and neighbours want, warns Lara Barazi-Yeroulanos, CEO of Kefalonia Fisheries.

Blue Frontier Magazine: What is the secret of being a succesful family business in Mediterranean aquaculture for 20 years?

Lara Barazi-Yeroulanos:  - Raising our fish is really a labour of love. The fish grow slowly, as nature intended. Our fish take almost twice as long to grow to maturity as other farmed fish. We do not use any additives or any other artificial means to speed up their growth. Their feed is specially formulated to match exactly what they would eat in the wild, explains Barazi-Yeroulanos.

BFM: Why is quality and sustainability so important to you?

LBY: - I think that all food production industries have a tremendous responsibility. They must produce under the most stringent conditions as to hygiene and safety. Full control of the whole production chain is an essential part of any food production system. Any lapse, whether health hazard to consumers, false claims or a substandard product is absolutely unacceptable. As a mother I know how much I worry that I am choosing the very best, healthiest foods for my children as parents everywhere do. We wonder what is really in our food, how it was made and who is overseeing the whole process.

BFM: How do you view the future market of aquaculture in competition with meat - in regard of the many scandals in that business lately. Is aquaculture better off?

LBY: - Aquaculture producers may be better off in that the products we produce are already widely recognized as healthful with essential benefits for a balanced diet, However we have to be just as vigilant as any other food producer, be it meat or anything else.
As far as production in developing countries is concerned, it is very important that we, as European citizens, be aware that there may not be the same standards in production required everywhere in the world. At the EU level we often set higher standards for our producers as for our consumers. This is very dangerous as a scandal that may result from poor practices in other countries will affect the market as a whole. The image of the whole industry is affected. There has to be a level playing-field.
- The salmon industry in the North has always been a model for us and is far more advanced in the fields of genetic selection, sustainable feeds, disease management and animal husbandry in general.
In two areas, however, I feel that we may have some advantages. In the Mediterranean sector we had to develop in a less “industrial” manner. Average site sizes are much smaller due to the intense competition for space we have with tourism.
- Today when feed and disease costs have become much more important than labor, the ability to micromanage feeding schedules, take full advantage of well-trained, experienced personnel to observe and judge the behavior of our animals is becoming a very important component of production.
The second element is our “traditional less industrial” way of production.I feel we may be more aligned with what a growing segment of consumers are looking for: a better connection with where their food is coming from, how it is produced and by whom. Although our customers, large retailers, wholesalers and processors would like a more industrialized production, I believe that our consumers want one that is less so.
- I think that the aquaculture industry has tremendous potential as core industries in southern Mediterranean countries. In the last 10 years, the Mediterranean sector grew at an average annual rate of 8% up until 2008 whereas the EU aquaculture sector overall has grown at an average annual rate of only 0.37%.
It has been an essential contributor to sustainable prosperity in regional communities and an important alternative to tourism as a source of long-term, full-time employment in Greece and the Mediterranean region as a whole.
- Absolutely. In Greece 99 % of the population live within 100 km of the coast. One of the important bottlenecks to aquaculture development will be competition for the marine coastal zone. Developing aquaculture sites offshore faces the challenges of weather and depth which could be mitigated by coordination with offshore wind platforms.
Fishfarming has also gradually taken on the role of the declining traditional fishing sector in preserving traditional employment and the way of life in the islands and coastal rural regions. In contrast with a gradually shrinking profession with little appeal to younger generations, employment in aquaculture has been steadily increasing for the past 10 years.

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