WFE will mark a turning point for Spain

01 Sep 2009

Elena Espinosa, Spanish Minister of the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs

World Fishing: How important is aquaculture for the Spanish fisheries sector?

Elena Espinosa: Modern aquaculture constitutes a substantial innovation in the production of fish and of food of aquatic origin and, with a percentage of average world growth of 6-8 % a year, it is the sector of food production that registers a more rapid growth.

On a global scale the global production is near to 52 million tons, thanks to the spectacular growth that has taken place in Asia and South America.

Aquaculture offers immense possibilities of development and raises important challenges, especially with regards to the environmental sustainability of the production and to the quality and safety of the products.

This economic activity is very important in certain coastal and continental zones of the EU, including the production of fresh and sea water fish, as well as of molluscs, in different types of systems of culture: closed or open, extensive or intensive, in ground, in lakes, in ponds fed by rivers or even by underground water, in facilities near to the coast or in open sea.

Nevertheless, aquaculture must not be an alternative to the development of the seas, but a complementary activity to traditional fishing, which gives response to the population increase in which we are immersed on a global scale.

Several studies suggest that by 2050 9.2 billion people will inhabit the earth and, according to the National Institute of Statistics, in the year 2018 the Spanish population will exceed 49 million. In this context, we continue to see that as consumers demand more products and aquaculture, Spain is one of the leading countries in this trend, showing one of the highest consumptions per capita in the world.

Therefore, only through aquaculture, by means of increasing the production and the diversification of the cultivated species, will we be able to give response to the population increase and the increase in consumer's demand for healthy, sustainable products and at a reasonable price.

At a national level, our aquaculture has turned into a consolidated and strategic sector, on which we can sustain the hope of supplying the markets with fishing products in the future.

Thus, Spain produced in 2008, according to data held by the National Advisory Board for Marine Farming JACUMAR), 280,227 tons of aquaculture products. Of these, about 214,737 tons were shellfish (accounting for more than 90% of mussel cultivation), 40,247 tons in the rearing of marine fish (mainly sea bream, sea bass and turbot), 113 tons of crustaceans, and slightly over 25,000 tons of inland aquaculture, mainly trout.

As stated in the conclusions of the Spanish Strategic Plan for Marine Aquaculture, developed by the Foundation for CETMAR for the Ministry in 2007, which have been agreed with autonomous communities and producers, the less optimistic scenario would achieve in 2010 60,000 tons of marine fish and 2015 might exceed 100,000. In the case of freshwater fish this could reach around 45,000 tons by 2015. All this is if the economic crisis rescinds.

At the same time, the Spanish aquaculture sector might create (by the year 2015) 5,500 new direct jobs and more than 15,000 indirect jobs, making the appearance of the coastal zones that often lack other alternative employment more attractive.

As you can see from this little bit of information, our aquaculture presents good prospects for development in the next few years, although we are conscious that in these moments of widespread crisis, the aquaculture sector does not remain immune.

In this sense, public administrations should be considered as a strategic sector inside our economy. They require, and will require in the future, the implementation of initiatives that foster and promote their progress and development of a harmoniously structured and especially sustainable industry, working mostly on issues related to sustainability, increased competitiveness, image and governance, markets, traceability, etc.

Specifically, the Government of Spain is working on a Sustainable Fisheries Act, which repeals the current law of the State of Marine Fisheries, which is a real qualitative leap for the industry.

The main changes are reflected in a series of policy proposals. The first is a full text of law to replace Law No. 3/2001, incorporating the principles of sustainability and responsible fishing. One of the major parts of the law is the fight against illegal fishing. The scope of the law is based on the principle of nationality, in addition to fishing activities and other activities regulated by law, using it as a connection point to make it possible to refer to offenses committed by people of Spanish nationality, and specific nationality or residing abroad who commit offenses outside the territory.

We will strengthen the law with the principles of conservation, protection and restoration of fishery resources, as basic principles to guide the fisheries policy, based on the principle of sustainable fishing.

This strategy focuses on real needs such as the modernisation of the fishing sector, across research, development and innovation to make it more competitive; the support to confront the current difficult economic context; the modernisation, innovation and competitiveness of the sector, including aspects of commercialisation and increasing the quality of fishing products, across the process of guaranteeing consumers traceable and sustainable aquaculture, among others.

These challenges have been decided upon from a debate with agents and administrations who have all implied to favour the search of consensus for the sake of the fishing sector.

WF: Are you happy with Spain's tuna breeding research?

EE: Allow me to say that that Spanish research is at the forefront in this field. Last July we received news that shocked the scientific world as a fisheries scientist who is part of a team of IEO Murcia has managed to reproduce in captivity. This milestone could open the possibility of beginning to breed this species in a sustainable way, the first time that the world has been able to obtain such large quantities of fertilized eggs from females of Atlantic bluefin tuna in captivity.

This project is a first step into the future to be able to produce this species through aquaculture, and thus help ensure its preservation.

WF: How should Spain and other countries help their deepsea fleets in third country, non-EU waters observe the conservation (discards) and catch parameters backed by the European Parliament?

EE: The Spanish fishing industry can not be excluded from the objective of achieving a sustainable economic development model, nor can it be outside that model that uses coastal and natural resources in the marine environment. The model of sustainable economic development that drives the Spanish government fits into the lines that make the policies of the European Union both in terms of fisheries and the coast. Concern about the inter-relationships between the consumption of natural resources and sustainability, production and endangered species and critical ecosystems, coupled with the need to implement environmental protection mechanisms, are inherently linked to our management activity.

Spain is willing to form a compromise that would allow a consistent policy of biodiversity conservation with sustainable fisheries policies for the use of the marine environment.

The worldwide fishing industry is aware that the international economic crisis is showing signs of recovery at a slower rate than first anticipated. In this strategy, the future of fisheries requires a broad consensus of all stakeholders towards a more sustainable and accountable activity to the living resources of the seas and oceans. This involves a unanimous decision and is determined by the preservation and conservation of marine resources, the effective and unconditional fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, the search for solutions to the overexploitation of vulnerable fisheries, and the mutual confidence of support for a common agreement for the Spanish fishing sector.

WF: Has Spain come up with any innovative ideas to solve the conflict between coastal tourism and fishing on the Mediterranean and Bay of Biscay coastlines?

EE: The Government of Spain wants to boost the development of sustainable and innovative recreation and tourism in the marine environment and the Spanish coast.

In this sense, on 24 July the Cabinet approved an agreement that implies to the Departments of Environment, Rural, Marine, Industry, Tourism, Commerce, Science and Innovation that it will coordinate its efforts to guarantee the viability of tourist destinations and to contribute on the subject of infrastructures to the sustainability of the same.

It is a question of a convergence of synergies in tourist infrastructure projects and improving the marine way, as well defining and promoting tourist recreation activities such as tourist fishing, echo diving in Spanish marine reservations and nautical stations on the Spanish coast. Tourism based on the sustainability of the coast wants to be promoted, as well as its promotion in international markets.

We are going to work on different levels with regards to the sustainability of the marine sector and coastal tourism. Some of the different actions we will carry out include:

• The promotion of large beach regeneration projects, the authorisation of blue flags and Quality Q flags to Spanish beaches; the creation of tourist value infrastructures linked to the environment as coastal paths.

• The incorporation, from 2010, of the information about the quality of the waters to the information about coastal tourist destinations.

• The inclusion of recreationally sustainable activities such as the observation of aquatic mammals that fulfil the protection requisites established in the current regulation.

• The promotion of an innovative experimental product in the environment of "fishing tourism", to complement and diversify extractive fishing.

• Finally, to support the enlargement of the marine reservations network and the development of coastal landscapes and high quality submarines. In this framework I can say that, in the short term, new reservations will be created in Palamós and in La Gomera focused on maintaining marine biodiversity and on the promotion of echo diving. Also we will create information centres in the marine reservations, promoting the activities to young people and adults.

This wide set of activities aims to make tourist development compatible with the sustainability of the sea and of the coastal development, based on scientific reports originating from public agencies.

WF: Is Spain losing part of the specialist shipbuilding market or can events like the World Fishing Exhibition hold back the tide of change?

EE: The Department of the Environment, Agriculture and Marine Affairs is prompting the common framework of the European Marine Strategy and the development of an energy efficiency policy for the development environmentally responsibly activity. This policy has been reflected in the concession of aids for the replacement of motors by those of smaller power, aids for the innovation and development of motors that combine propulsion with respect to the marine environment, as well as in the promotion of more selective methods of fishing.

This policy has been reflected in the granting of aid for replacing engines with those of less power and support for the innovation and development of propulsion engines, which combine a respect for the marine environment, as well as the promotion and implementation of more selective methods of fishing.

There is no doubt that this international fair is a platform for the maritime sector in seeking solutions and a showcase for businesses, while offering quality products and guarantees of experience and professionalism, as provided by Spanish companies.

WF: What risks are there for Spain as the EU-Morocco agreement comes up for renewal in the near future? Can Spanish fishing and processing community's jobs be safeguarded?

EE: In 1999 the previous protocol ended, which involved the closure and access to Moroccan fishing grounds. Following long and intense diplomatic efforts, in July 2005 the EU and Morocco concluded on a fishing agreement, which has been described as of great political importance for the EU fishing industry, thanks to the vessels in agreement from 11 EU countries that can fish in Moroccan waters.

The agreement offered 119 licenses to the EU fleet, of which a hundred are for Spain and have four years' duration (until February 2011) and are renewable.

Logically, Spain has shown, and will show in due course, through the proper procedure its interest in renewing this agreement under the conditions allowed in the framework.

Regarding the second part of the question, I would note that this agreement has given Spain more than 84 per cent of the licenses of the EU fleet and an additional quota of 60,000 tons for industrial pelagic fish (anchovy, mackerel and herring), of which 1,333 tons are for the Spanish.

According to the division Andalusia has 42 licenses, the Canary Islands have 37 and Galicia has 17, while Basque Country and Cantabria have two licenses each. This means that the processing and marketing sectors of these regions have new elements to keep the historical activity of a fishery in which there are still many areas dependent on fishing locally.

WF: What is the future for anchovy in the Bay of Biscay? Does climate change mean they are moving elsewhere long term?

EE: Scientific reports indicate that despite the ban imposed by the European Commission in the Bay of Biscay, so far the state of the anchovy stock can not provide the data to find a clear recovery of anchovy for this fishery.

In this regard, scientists have no evidence of a direct link between climate change and the recruitment of anchovy eggs and larvae in a given area and not in others - it is necessary to deepen the study of this situation. There are studies that the Secretary General of the Sea is driving through the development of the two annual campaigns: the Juvena campaign (for estimating the abundance and biomass of juvenile anchovies) and Bioman in the spring (for estimating the levels of biomass of anchovy stock, through the evaluation of the reproductive capacity of adult individuals).

WF: How important is the World Fishing Exhibition for Spanish fisheries and what do you expect from the exhibition?

EE: The World Fishing Exhibition 2009 will mark a turning point, since the fair will allow Spain to become the leading international forum of opinion, knowledge and exchange of sea-fishing activity.

The Ministry will make use of this global event to lay the groundwork for a future strategy for the fisheries, and direct it towards a more sustainable activity, to concur in its conclusion with the Conference of Ministers and the World Summit on Fisheries Sustainability.

Spain will raise a debate of international dimension on the sustainability of fishing in the framework of fisheries management, not only in the short term but the medium to long term. This will be undertaken with the backing of major international organisations in the fisheries sector: FAO, European Commission, European Parliament, and so on. This appointment will go to non-EU countries where the Spanish fleet operates and where our goal is to maintain Spanish business.