Spain’s tuna industry in good shape


Chris Dove, contributing editor, reporting from Malaga, Spain

Published on
November 7, 2012

Coinciding with favorable European Union talks and healthy sales figures, Spain’s tuna industry ends the year in good shape.

Spanish tuna canners’ association ANFACO-CECOPESCA (AC) is satisfied with the EU’s maximum limit on tuna loin imports widely used in the industry, set at 25,000 metric tons(MT) at 0 percent tariff to 2015. AC had petitioned for a 30,000 MT quota at 0 percent tariff while the EU had initially proposed 20,000 MT at 6 percent tariff.

Fisheries minister Miguel Arias Cañete called the suspension of customs duties “a clear measure of EU support for the canned sector.”

Spain’s canners need 250,000 MT tons of fresh product for processing, yet can source only 127,000 MT from Atlantic fishing grounds. AC justifies its import demand due to supply problems in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. 

In related news, AC has spoken out over trading conditions with non-EU countries. The association hit out at the Philippines tuna industry for failing to abide by international labor laws while qualifying for free access to EU markets from 1 January 2014 under the renewed General Preferential Scheme for Sustainable Development (“GSP+”). AC points out that the Philippines have no formal complaints system; tuna workers are blacklisted if they complain; wages aren’t properly distributed so fishermen are in permanent debt; overtime isn’t compensated; and the industry lacks written contracts.

As well as pointing out bad social working conditions under Papua New Guinea’s GSP, AC is calling for a temporary ban on canned tuna imports from Thailand following border rejections failing to meet food safety standards.

Spain’s canning industry convened its first National Congress in Madrid on Wednesday, ‘Tuna: a successful story of international sustainability.” Hosted by Interatun and inaugurated by the fisheries minister, the sector’s internationalization, challenges and evolution as “the best bet” for responsible fishing were highlighted.

Miguel Cañete said: “Spain supports the EU’s leadership position in regional tuna fisheries organizations based on the best available scientific evidence to ensure resources are managed with the best possible long-term sustainability.”

He advocated greater harmonization, transparency in private licensing of fishing in third countries and strong, effective cooperation between operators and coastal states in the fight against illegal fishing.

Focusing on bigeye, skipjack and albacore tuna, latest FAO and Interatun figures reveal Spain’s tuna industry generates EUR 1.1 billion (USD 1.4 billion) per year and provides 62,000 direct and indirect jobs, 97 percent in Galicia and the Basque Country.

Spain’s exports of canned tuna have reached 95,000 tons valued at EUR 400 million (USD 512 million) with Italy, France, Portugal, the U.K. and Germany key markets.

Spain is the world's second largest producer of canned tuna after Thailand and leader in the EU with 15 percent of global production and 70 percent of the EU’s quota.

Canned tuna is the second most widely consumed seafood after fresh hake with 2.25 kilograms per inhabitant, representing 8.5 percent of total fish purchases in Spanish households.

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