Spanish seafood industry urged to work toward greater sustainability

Published on
August 15, 2018

Spain’s seafood industry is being helped to work towards a more sustainable and responsible supply chain by environmental law group ClientEarth, following the success of the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC) in the United Kingdom, which it initiated. 

The SSC aimed to promote and support responsible and sustainable fish and seafood consumption, inform the public debate on seafood, and influence change in policy relevant to seafood sustainability not just in the U.K., but also in the European Union internationally.  

The SSC has become a practical and collaborative way of demonstrating good sourcing practice, according to ClientEarth. The U.K. initiative has resulted in 75 percent of seafood in British supermarkets being labeled and sourced responsibly through voluntary codes of conduct on responsible sourcing and labeling developed by SSC members.

ClientEarth’s new sustainable seafood project hopes to achieve similar results with the Spanish seafood industry.

“Our role is to facilitate a new industry coalition and help them develop best practice for seafood sustainability in Spain,” Katie Miller, ClientEarth’s sustainable seafood project lead, told SeafoodSource. “This group can pave the way for collaborative environmental leadership in Spain.”

Spain has the highest-capacity fishing fleet in the world, with vessels fishing in every ocean around the globe. It also boasts the highest-volume fish landings, and has the biggest aquaculture industry in the EU28, in terms of volume. Such impressive statistics make it an influential player, Miller said.

According to EUMOFA – the European market observatory for fisheries and aquaculture – Spain is also the largest consumer of fresh fish in the E.U., with its population of 46.5 million eating an average of 45 kilograms of seafood per person each year. 

In 2016, Spain produced 1.2 million metric tons of wild and farmed seafood, and imported almost half that figure again to meet growing demand. The most popular fresh species are hake, salmon, sardine, cod, and sole, which account for around 42 percent of the country’s total consumption in both volume and value.  

ClientEarth’s Spanish team began working on the sustainable seafood project late in 2017, having already worked with the country’s sourcing, processing, and retailing sectors to discuss how they could work collectively to share good practices and achieve a more environmentally responsible industry. Discussions are ongoing to see what might be achieved, project coordinator Paloma Colmenarejo said.

“We want all seafood sold in Spain to be from sustainable sources, with full traceability, transparency and with absolutely no doubt about illegal fish arriving on Spanish dinner plates,” Colmenarejo said. “Spanish consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the need to eat more sustainably and we want to see the supply chain making responsible choices to keep up with demand. This requires a collaborative approach from the industry and we’ve been working to establish a group that welcomes all retailers in Spain, and their representatives.”

The first step for the seafood businesses taking part will be to agree on environmental priorities. For the SSC, these were voluntary codes of conduct on environmentally responsible fish and seafood sourcing and on environmental claims. 

“We would like to see greater transparency for customers wanting to know where their seafood comes from and offer credibility for retailers through improved labeling,” Colmenarejo said.

In the U.K., the SSC’s codes are without prejudice to national, international, or other laws or regulations and represent commitments that members have agreed to adhere to, irrespective of size or sector. They set a precedent for industry best practices and members have translated the requirements of the codes into their business practices.

The labeling code has created clear, consistent, and meaningful information on voluntary claims about responsibility and sustainability, according to Colmenarejo. She said the sourcing code ensures that consumers can have confidence that the seafood they are buying meets or exceeds minimum standards of responsibility. 

A ClientEarth 2011 seafood industry report showed that many businesses claimed that their seafood products were sustainably or responsibly sourced, but there was little clarity on what these claims actually meant. A major benefit of the SSC is that is has helped to establish consistency on labeling and sourcing within the seafood supply chain.

“The SSC is a great role model for what we hope to achieve in Spain,” Colmenarejo said. “Of course, while the cultures and the industry landscapes are very different between these two countries, the group that I am working with has this opportunity to collaborative on environmental priorities for a common goal, which is to ensure that Spain can be a leader in the sale of sustainable seafood products.”

Photo courtesy of Rosana McPhee/

Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500