Population: 46.43 million
GDP: €1.22 billion (2015, Eurostat)
GDP/capita €23,000 (2015, Eurostat)
Overview of the Spanish fisheries and aquaculture sector
Spain, with a coastline of almost 8,000 km, is home to the biggest fishing industry in the EU. The majority of fisheries activities are carried out in the coastal regions of Spain. Positioned at the far south-west corner of Europe, the country enjoys entry points into both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, and offers good conditions for marine and freshwater aquaculture. Spain produces over 1.2 million tonnes of fisheries products per annum, more than any other EU country. 70 % comes from sea fishing, 29 % from aquaculture and a mere 1 % from inland fishing.
Spain has excellent environmental and climatic conditions, with availability of adequate sea areas located a reasonable distance from the coastline. As a country of age-old marine traditions, it is the largest producer of fish in the EU by volume and the largest consumer market for fisheries and aquaculture products.
The fishing fleet is made up of 9,408 vessels, making it the 3rd largest in the EU. Galicia represents almost 50 % of all vessels, followed by Andalusia (15 %), Catalonia (9%), and the Canary Islands (9 %). In terms of value, the most important fish species are tuna-like species and needlefish followed by coastal fish: cod, hake, herring, sardines, and anchovies. Crustaceans and molluscs consisting of prawns, shrimp, squid, cuttlefish, and octopus are ranked third. Fishing provides employment to roughly 41,500 people (0.24 % of the total employed in Spain).
The aquaculture sector is widely diversified in terms of species and farming technologies. About thirty species are cultivated. Species leading in volume include blue mussel, rainbow trout, gilthead seabream, and European seabass. Although the trend has been towards consolidation in recent years, the industry is still dominated by small to medium-sized farms.
In 2014, the farming of marine fish and seafood amounted to approximately 285,000 tonnes. The production corresponds mainly to marine aquaculture (fish and shellfish), and less than 10 % (around 10,000 tonnes) is freshwater aquaculture. The marine aquaculture is mostly shellfish, while 15 % of the total production is marine finfish. Mussels farming is by far the biggest sector of aquaculture in terms of production volume, representing three quarters of the total aquaculture output. Spain has been the biggest producer of flat oysters in Europe over recent decades, producing well over half of the global harvest. While at the beginning of this century production of oysters in Galicia was slightly over 4,500 tonnes, it had fallen to about 935 tonnes by 2014.
More than 95 % of Spanish mussels’ production is carried out of the coast of Galicia, a region located in the far north-western corner of the Iberian Peninsula. The coastline is 1,200 km long, and production is concentrated in five bays: Vigo, Ponteverda, Arousa, Muros and Ares. Mussels are cultivated in the coastal inlets by means of floating rafts. Galician mussels are famous for their quality, which is made possible by a combination of factors, such as warm water temperature, high amounts of nutrients in the water, and geographical location in the protected areas of the ocean with resistance to unpredictable weather.
Seabream and seabass are the main marine species with 11,491 and 4,097 tonnes, respectively, and the rainbow trout is the main species in freshwater. The three represented 75 % of the total production in 2014. Seabream is cultivated mostly on the Mediterranean coast, in the Valencia region.
Trout aquaculture has been the driver for the country’s inland aquaculture with production of over 21,000 tonnes in 2014.
In 2015, the total number of aquaculture production enterprises was 5,057, including 4,906 marine farms and 151 freshwater farms. In the marine aquaculture sector, 4,803 farms were engaged in the farming of mussels, Japanese carpet shell, and flat oysters. There were 96 farms producing seabass and seabream, 4 farms producing various shrimp species, and 2 farms producing algae. In the freshwater aquaculture segment, there were 77 farms producing trout, 65 farms producing carp species, and 8 farms producing sturgeon. Small firms with less than 5 employees dominate the Spanish aquaculture sector, representing 74 % of the total number of farms in the country. There were 5 hatcheries producing trout juveniles, 1 hatchery for European freshwater crayfish, and 5 hatcheries for marine species.
During recent years, the aquaculture industry has invested in diversification in new species, focusing on high added-valued species. Meagre, tuna, and yellowtail are considered to be potential species of interest in the Spanish aquaculture sector going forward.
Processing and trade
Spain is home to the largest fish processing industry in Europe, with a turnover of around €4.6 billion and total employment estimated at 18,390 in 2014. Historically, it was focused on salted and canned fish and shellfish due to the large size of the country. However, since the 1950s, it has become one of the most diverse and large industries internationally. The industry is mainly composed of medium-sized companies, mostly in the canning sector and to a lesser extent in fresh and frozen processed seafood sectors. The canning sector has the highest production volume. Tuna is the most important species, amounting to 241,500 tonnes, while other key species include sardines and anchovies. In the past few years, the Spanish fish processing sector has seen mixed trends due to economic constrains in the country, but the canning industry has kept its position in production of fish and seafood products, both for domestic and international markets, by acquiring niche markets and maintaining premium-prices.
Considering the large capacity of the fish and seafood markets and coverage of its consumption needs, Spain relies highly on imports, predominately from third countries. The country is also a large exporter, mainly to the EU, which absorbs two-thirds of its exports.
The total import of fisheries and aquaculture products reached 1,584,700 tonnes in 2016, about the same level as in 2010. In terms of value, imports of fisheries and aquaculture products amounted to over €5.8 billion, an increase of €0.4 billion. Spanish imports were predominantly composed of crustaceans, molluscs, and cephalopods, which made up to 40 % in value of the total fisheries and seafood imports. The total export of fisheries and aquaculture products was stable from 2010–2016, amounting to 1,040,843 tonnes in 2016. Spain exports its fisheries and aquaculture products to a wide range of countries with Italy (20 %), Portugal (16 %), and France (11 %) as the main destinations. In 2016, these countries all together were responsible for nearly half of Spanish exports. Yellowfin tuna was the top exported species, mostly to Mauritius and The Seychelles for manufacturing purposes.
Spain is one of the largest markets for fish and seafood in Europe. In recent years, the national average apparent consumption of fisheries and aquaculture products has been generally stable, reaching 46.2 kg per capita in 2014 (live weight equivalent). Spain had the largest apparent consumption of mussel products among other Mediterranean countries at 3.33 kg per capita in 2014, due to its large production. More than half of the fish and seafood volume consumed by Spaniards happens at home. The areas with the most frequent at-home consumption of fish are the autonomous regions Castilla Leon, Galicia, and Asturias.
According to Spain’s Operational Program EMFF 2014–2020, the marine fisheries sector in Spain faces challenges in terms of its sustainability at both the biological and economic level. The Spanish fleet is highly diversified with specific needs as well as challenges in each category. The fisheries sector is making investments in ports and on board to improve the quality and added value of fisheries products. Measures also include diversification of fishery and fishery-related activities, promoting entrepreneurship (particularly among young fishermen) , improving the added value and use of unwanted catches, and enhancing safety on board. EMFF funding will also focus on the protection of aquatic biodiversity and ecosystems. The aim is to make the profession both more attractive and more competitive.
Based on the multiannual strategic plan for Spanish aquaculture 2014–2020, several issues are highlighted. These are noted because they may influence the current production trends, drive future production growth, and technical advancement . The key issues in aquaculture are homogenization and simplification of the different aquaculture strategies and regulatory frames in the 17 regions of the country, which at present have different competencies and regulations as well as increases in production. The plan stresses integrated coastal zone management and the identification of adequate areas for aquaculture development. Another challenging issue in the upcoming period is transfer of technology and knowledge to the industry and strengthening competitiveness through research and development, as well as training professionals to ensure technology transfer in the industry.
The main challenges of the processing sector are not specific to this sector, but also affect most Spanish industries: difficulty accessing finances, lack of internationalization, and the need to increase the added value of products.
Useful Links for Spain
- MAPAMA - The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment
- Conxemar - Spanish Association of Wholesalers, Importers, Manufacturers and Exporters of Fish products and Aquaculture
- AZTI Tecnalia - Technology Center
- Spanish Oceanographic Institute
- Alimentaria Barcelona
- EL PAIS in English