Snowstorms in Greece cause mass death of fish

Storm Elpida has brought freezing temperatures across Greek mainland and led to the loss of masses of farmed sea bream

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Hundreds of thousands of farmed fish have died from thermal shock in Greece after an intense winter storm blanketed several parts of the country in snow this week.

Fishermen lamented the large-scale destruction of would-be catch as dead sea bream floated on the surface of the Richo Lagoon in Igoumenitsa, in the north-west of the country. The water temperature dropped to 0°C as a snowstorm raged across Greece.

“The destruction is huge, it is estimated there are around 50 tonnes of dead fish,” said Ioannis Ouzounoglou, who works at the state-owned fish farm.

“In all the years that I have been recording and measuring temperatures in the area, I never expected that we would have such low temperatures.”

Countries across the Mediterranean have been grappling with extreme climate conditions this week as Storm Elpida, which means “hope,” delivered a blast of cold air and sparked a series of snowstorms.

A scientist at the Department of Fisheries said the farm’s enclosure prevented the fish from swimming into deeper water for survival.

“They died from thermal shock,” said Konstantinos Perdikaris after visiting the lagoon on Tuesday. “At shallow depths the reaction of the air is more intense,” he said. Usual temperatures in the lagoon this time of year are about 7°C to 8°C.

The fish farm holds more than 600,000 fish of various species but only the sea bream were affected as they are sensitive to low temperatures and cannot survive below 4°C.

Ordinarily the fish are freed into the lake in winter but Mr Ouzounoglou said the speed and intensity of the frost came was so sudden that they were unable to do so in time.

Updated: January 28, 2022, 11:45 AM