Spain's fishing industry under pressure
The combined pressures of reduced seafood consumption in Spain and increased illegal fishing in the east Atlantic, western Mediterranean and Straits of Gibraltar is taking its toll on Spain's fishing industry.
The industry's recent struggles were a hot topic at Morocco's International Fishing & Seafood Processing Trade Show in Agadir, the country's largest fishing port, last week.
While Spain remains the European Union's largest per-capita seafood consumer, Spanish seafood consumption is declining due to lower catches and higher prices, while Spain's seafood imports are increasing due to a drop in domestic production.
One Moroccan company, Agadir-based Cefalopex, is heavily reliant on the Spanish market yet is having to adjust its production and sales structures accordingly.
Spanish-born co-directors José Luis and Jorge Suso explain: "With Spanish consumption down, fewer exports to China and Asia, and with prices for squid and octopus as low as EUR 9 (USD 11.37) per kilo, we are in the process of diversifying from fresh to frozen seafood as a means of countering higher transportation and storage costs."
The price for sardines has dropped from EUR 150 (USD 190) per box to EUR 30 (USD 38).
The EU's 2006 trade agreement granted Morocco EUR 144 million (USD 182 million) to allow 119 European trawlers to catch fish in the rich waters along Morocco's Atlantic coast for four years, with Spain being the main beneficiary (100 Spanish boats, 14 Portuguese, four French and one Italian). That agreement ends in 2010 - observers will be keen to see what follows next year.
Unemployment and economic pressures are blamed for the increase in Spain's illegal catches. The Guardia Civil and Fisheries Inspectors have decommissioned some 32 boats in recent weeks, claiming that illegal nets are catching fish below the minimum size, thus deteriorating fish stocks. Restaurants in Málaga and Granada are undergoing inspection, and receiving warnings about the illegality of buying undersized fish.