Dr László Varadi flanked by current EAS president Bente E Torstensen and executive director Alistair Lane.

Top honour for Hungarian aquaculture veteran


A veteran proponent of fish farming has been given the European Aquaculture Society’s highest award of Honorary Life Membership for his dedication to the recognition and development of pond aquaculture in central and eastern Europe and further afield.

Dr László Varadi received the award at the society’s annual Aquaculture Europe conference and trade show (AE2023), which was held in Vienna, Austria, last week.

Varadi has been involved in aquaculture development since 1974 when he started to work in the Research Institute of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Irrigation (HAKI) in Hungary. Besides R&D activities aimed at the development of sustainable freshwater aquaculture systems and technologies in Hungary, he was also involved in various aquaculture development projects in developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, mainly as an expert for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). He retired as director of HAKI in 2012.

Spreading the word

In the build-up to the first European Union Strategy for the Sustainable Development of European Aquaculture in 2000, Varadi frequently visited Brussels to present the attributes and development prospects of freshwater aquaculture in Europe to the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Committee of the Regions. This was not only for the production and diversification of species, but also on subjects such as cormorant predation, the preservation of wetland areas and the first articulated formulation of the ecosystems services that pond aquaculture provided.

In 2004, Varadi was the driving force behind the creation and establishment of the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Central and Eastern Europe (NACEE) and remains its president. The creation of NACEE was an important step towards the reduction of the gap between the Eastern- and Western European regions in aquaculture cooperation after the economic and political changes in Central and Eastern Europe in the 1990s.

Advocate for innovation

Technology and innovation are key for Varadi and the processes aimed at strengthening aquaculture innovation in Hungary have developed in parallel with those elsewhere in Europe.

The Hungarian Aquaculture Technology and Innovation Platform (HUNATiP), for which Varadi is chief technical advisor, works in close cooperation with the European Aquaculture Technology and Innovation Platform (EATiP) and contributes to the harmonisation and coordination of Hungarian aquaculture innovation programs and independently carries out innovation activities.

Varadi has also been president of the Hungarian Aquaculture Association since 2010.

Varadi received the FEAP (Federation of European Aquaculture Producers) Award for Excellence in 2015 for his contributions to freshwater aquaculture, by playing a key role in developing the Hungarian sector as well as for his strong involvement and cooperation with less developed countries.

Making a splash in Laos

Over recent years, he has split his time between Hungary and Laos.

Cooperation in aquaculture development with Laos started in the 1980s and was supported by FAO at that time. One recent milestone was the establishment of a Hungarian-Lao joint venture company (ADC), which is producing high quality tilapia fingerlings. Fish culture was the “entry point” for other projects (e.g., feed manufacturing, livestock production, plant cultivation, irrigation) in the production of healthy and safe food in Laos.

Varadi was the European Aquaculture Society’s president between 2006 and 2008, and a strong supporter of all the society’s annual Aquaculture Europe events, being present at each since the mid-1990s.

He chaired the AE2023 Steering Committee, making sure that its focus was not only on Austria, but also on the Czech Republic, Germany and Hungary, and taking a lead on the development of the AE2023 Industry Forum.

AE2023, held at the Messe Wien exhibition centre, was attended by 2,293 participants from 80 countries. They included 378 students.

The organisers received 1,009 abstracts and there were 545 oral presentations spread over 52 sessions. There were also 463 poster presentations.

The trade show was sold out and had 164 exhibitor booths.

AE2023 hosted 2,293 visitors from 80 countries.