A shrinking Spanish fishing fleet


Pilar Caride, SeafoodSourcecontributing editor, reporting from Vigo, Spain

Published on
June 10, 2013

The Spanish fishing fleet has lost nearly 25 percent of its vessels in the past six years, in part due to more efficient fishing of Spanish stocks, according to one fishermen’s group, and there’s a chance the fleet may still be too big for local fisheries’ needs.

According to data from the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Environment, the Spanish fishing fleet was reduced by 24.5 percent between 2006 and 2012, decreasing from 13,398 to 10,116 vessels. The fleet’s gross tonnage also fell in this period by 19.96 percent, and its power — measured in kilowatts — dropped by 20.28 percent.

According to the operational report in Spain of the European Fisheries Fund, the vessels decommissioned in Spain in the period 2007 to 2011 made an average total catch of about 50,333 metric tons (MT).

The chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Guilds, Genaro Amigo, told SeafoodSource the data “do not necessarily involve a decrease in the volume of landings, as the object is that the other vessels can have a wider fishing quota.”

According to the latest fisheries data in recent reports from Grupo BBVA, a private economic research firm, the fleet reductions applied between 2004 and 2011 were focused on vessels in national and community waters, with an adjustment of 14.8 and 32.6 percent, respectively; while the long distance water fleets (LDWF) remained stable.

Since 1985, the Spanish government has offered subsidies for the temporary or definitive stop of the fleet with the aim of adjusting the capacity of the fleet to the resources that can be fished. Otherwise, Amigo said, there would be an oversized fleet. Nevertheless, according to the 2011 report of the European Court of Auditors, in spite of the efforts carried out, the remaining fleet is still too big for the available resources.

Amigo noted that the object of the federation is the conservation of posts and of the companies of shipowners, but he also described them as “very efficient.”

Galicia, a region located in the northwest, leads the country in volume of vessels and turnover, representing 42 percent of the national total and 57.4 percent of the turnover produced by the sale of sea products from the entire Spanish fleet, according to Grupo BBVA fisheries data.

In this region, this week marks the deadline to submit the application for the decommissioning of vessels in 2013, and EUR 9.5 million (USD 12.54 million) will be devoted to this measure. According to Amigo, in 2011, the number of ships submitted for decommission in Spain reached 668, surpassed by Italy with 1,067 and Greece with 796 vessels. The figures are 473 and 134 for France and Latvia, respectively; while other states submitted an average of less than one hundred ships decommissioned.

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