The majority of aquaculture in the country is the farming of mussels (231,754 tonnes in 2012) followed by sea bream, rainbow trout, sea bass and turbot.
Despite the country’s high production, its value is in fourth position at €450 million, its aquaculture production has plateaued and it is still heavily dependent on fish imports.
According to the latest Spanish Aquaculture 2014 report, there were 108 establishments operating in marine fish farming (excluding mussels) in 2012 but this number dropped to 94 in 2013.
“Unfortunately, aquaculture production in Spain in 2014 reached a stagnation point that many other EU Member states faced a decade ago, setting its annual harvest at around 415,000 tonnes,” said Javier Ojeda, Business Association of Marine Aquaculture Producers of Spain (Apromar).
Barriers to Expansion
Sadly, the Spanish aquaculture sector is not expecting any further growth from the main marine or freshwater species. Any further expansion is only expected in algae farming and in minor species like abalone, sole or Greater amberjack, said Mr Ojeda.
Although Spain has all the right tools for growth in aquaculture, European, national and local bottlenecks are holding development of aquaculture the industry back.
“The strong domestic market for fresh fish, the knowhow of fish farmers and the favourable coastal environmental conditions should be enough to boost this industry, but red tape, an unlevelled playing field with respect to imports and locally-silver-lined EU environmental regulations are obstructing progress,” commented Mr Ojeda.
The ineffectiveness of the Spanish government has thwarted aquaculture in the last 10 years, losing around €600 million in investments and preventing the creation of 1,700 direct and 2,500 indirect jobs.
As a result, Spain’s aquaculture sector should be producing 50 per cent more than it is today.
Multiannual Strategic Plan for Spanish Aquaculture
In order to try and help the further development of Spain’s aquaculture sector, the National Marine Advisory Board (JACUMAR), the National Advisory Board of Continental Growers (JACUCON) and the Inland Marine Crops recently approved the Multiannual Strategic Plan for Spanish Aquaculture 2014 – 2020, which was produced as part of the requirement Member States have to the EU, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment (MAGRAMA).
The General Secretariat of Fisheries commissioned the Spanish Aquaculture Observatory (FOESA) Foundation to help develop the Strategic Plan along with the integrated contributions of all the Autonomous Communities (coastal and inland), as well as experts in different areas of aquaculture. It also contained collaborated efforts and views of major producer organisations and scientific/technical aquaculture experts.
The plan aims to set the strategic directions for the continuation and support of the industry whilst also analysing the current and future growth prospects of the aquaculture sector, helping it to move away from its reliance on fish imports to meet demand.
In order to help develop the sector sustainably, four strategic objectives, emanating from defined strategic guidelines for the sustainable development of aquaculture by the European Commission, have been set out as:
- The simplification and standardisation of the legal and administrative framework and the strengthening of the representativeness of the sector in order to provide greater legal certainty for producers and to reduce the current wait for the granting of new authorisations.
- The increase of aquaculture production and its economic value from improving sectorial planning through the use of integrated coastal zone management and the selection of new areas of interest.
- Strengthening the competitiveness of the sector, which can be achieved through innovation, research and development, better health management and closer relations between the scientific community and the industry.
- Reinforcing aspects related to the processing and marketing of aquaculture products through innovation, advocacy and support for producer organisations.
In order to develop these four objectives, eight strategic lines, which include 37 strategic national activities and up to 335 actions, have been set up by the autonomous communities through regional strategic planning.
According to the vision of the plan, the Spanish aquaculture sector could continue to lead aquaculture production in the EU until 2030, strengthening its weight economically and creating employment in coastal areas. At the same time, the sector will also guarantee consumers the highest quality products through sustainable methods.
The plan will now be submitted to the European Commission in the coming months for analysis.
Will the Plan Become Reality?
Despite the government’s belief in the plan, Spanish aquaculture producers are sceptical on the willingness of the public administrations to properly implement it.
Apromar stated that it agrees with the plan as a whole and that it has come at a critical time for the Spanish aquaculture sector as it is undergoing a period of uncertainty about its future but, it is concerned as to how the plan will be implemented and become reality.
“The Multi-Annual Plan for Spanish Aquaculture should serve to change the direction of the game. It is a well-structured and thought document which includes reasonable measures, figures and indicators,” said Mr Ojeda. “However there are issues that APROMAR has with the plan.”
“Firstly, some of the main public offices that help to shape and control aquaculture, such as environmental, harbour authorities and social security, amongst others, have not been involved in the plan and many probably do not even know of its existence and therefore will not feel obliged to implement it.
“Secondly, many regional aquaculture competent authorities seem to have lost faith in the industry and have given in with respect to other public departments and industries,” Mr Ojeda continued.
Nevertheless, APROMAR stated that it will participate in the checking of the plan as it develops and will flag any departures from its targets as soon as they are perceived.
Speaking on how the plan will be funded and implemented, Mr Ojeda commented that the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) (2014-2020) looks to be especially favourable for aquaculture.
However, as aquaculture is a highly regulated activity, if insufficient industry-led initiatives are approved, most of these funds will end up unused, Mr Ojeda continued.
The Spanish government must also make sure that it co-finances projects that are given the green light. If it does not do so, it is quite probable that a high percentage of EMFF money will remain unused.
This article has been taken from the October 2014 Sustainable Aquaculture Digital. To read more please, click here.