Spanish retailer seeks partners to get hake, octopus, squid certified

A leading Spanish retailer is seeking collaborators to join it in securing more sustainable seafood. 

Low volume buyers in Spain face challenges in securing sustainable local supply because Spanish producers sell to higher paying markets like Japan and Northern Europe, according to Gorka Azkona, head of the fresh fish buying department at Eroski, a co-operative retailer with 1,650 outlets concentrated on northern Spain.  

“We need partners to go to these international fisheries to get them certified,” Akzona said. “We have 200 products to offer a wide choice to our customers but our volumes aren’t big enough to allow us act alone.” 

Hake, octopus and squid are three species with a high consumption rates in Spain which could be certified, Azkona believes. 

Eroski has sought to position itself as a socially responsible retailer and seeks to source locally, and requires all its seafood suppliers to meet the ILO188 commitments as overseen by the International Labour Organisation. A lack of local produce with certification means MSC and Friends of the Sea are not as well known in the Spanish market. 

Eroski has launched its own ‘Eroski Natur’ logo on MSC certified product. It tried to introduce MSC certified cod in 2013 “but clients still go for a good price” rather than certified sustainable product, explains Azkona. However, that could be changing, he added. “Certification of the Basque anchovy and tuna stocks means we have enough volume to go for a big commercial promotion.” 

A five year closure of the Basque anchovy fishery helped focus minds somewhat, but Spanish consumers, says Azkona, “aren’t putting the pressure on retailers to change to certified sustainable products.”

Eroski has also been trying to educate consumers through in store seminars and cooking demonstration featuring sustainable seafood products. Retailers however aren’t the only consumer facing players: Spain, the EU’s top consumer of seafood, is unique in Europe in that wet market fishmongers continue to have a high share of the national seafood sales. 

Likewise complicating matters in Spain: “Sustainability is often seen as a negative: Some parts of the value chain think of the past and associate sustainability with the limits placed on our fisheries quotas.” 


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