A Spanish Fishing Sector Report 2022 from CEPESCA shows a growth in fish production value of almost 10 percent between 2019 and 2021
The sector saved the 2020 crisis with great effort and now face the complexity created by the war in Ukraine and the EU’s obsession with green policies
According to the latest data compiled by the Spanish Fisheries Confederation (CEPESCA) and reflected in the fourth edition of its Report on the Spanish Fishing Sector, which analyses its evolution during 2020-2021, the total value of its production in 2020 amounted to 2,043 million euros , with a growth of almost 10% compared to 1,840 million in 2019.
With this figure, the sector, declared essential and strategic by the Government as part of the food chain, has been able to maintain its activity rates after solving the problems caused by the health crisis, such as guaranteeing the health of the crew, ensuring relief in third countries or the closure of certain marketing channels and some international markets.
However, and without having normalized the consequences of this crisis, the sector is now facing two new ones. On the one hand, the one created by the war in Ukraine, which has violently affected the structure of companies’ production costs, especially due to the rise in fuel prices, and the second due to the restrictions on activity caused by EU environmental policies.
It should be remembered that the rise in fishing oil, which usually accounts for between 30 and 40% of the operating costs of ships, seriously affects companies in the sector, since it already exceeds 60% of these. Added to the increase in the cost of diesel in 2021 (44.44%) was the sharp increase due to the conflict in Ukraine. Specifically, from the last quarter of 2020 to July 2022, the price of a litre of diesel has more than tripled, going from an average of 0.306 euros to more than 1.1 euros.
According to Javier Garat, general secretary of Cepesca, “Despite the events that we have been experiencing for more than two years, the effort of the sector and its extraordinary professionalism have allowed it to maintain the level of activity and European leadership. The catches have decreased slightly, but we have grown in value and imports/exports recovered in 2021, after falling in 2019 and 2020. We are also satisfied -adds Garat-, the increase in the consumption of fishery products by Spanish homes. There is no doubt that, unlike some politicians, citizens know how to appreciate our effort and the qualities and effects of fish on health”.
The great figures of the fishing sector
The fish and shellfish catches of our fleet amounted to 787,258 tons in 2020, decreasing by 11.4% compared to the 877,211 tons caught in 2019. With these figures, Spain revalidates its leadership in the European Union for another year. In this regard, in 2019 (latest available figures for Europe), Spain accounted for 28% of the total value of fishing and 16.3% of catches.
Regarding the jobs generated by the sector, in 2020 there were 31,093 direct jobs, with a decrease of 2.6% compared to 31,935 in 2019; and 150,000 indirect. These figures reflect the process of adjusting the number of vessels in the Spanish fishing fleet, which in 2020 was made up of 8,839 vessels compared to 8,884 in 2019. This adjustment is also reflected in the figure for 2021, already available, and which indicates to a total of 8,732 fishing boats, occupying the third position in the European ranking, after Greece (14,550) and Italy (12,179).
Most of the fleet operates in the national fishing ground, with 95.34% of the total vessels in four fishing zones: Bay of Biscay and Northwest, Mediterranean, Gulf of Cadiz and Canary Islands. In community waters, 1.18% fish, 1.27% in international fishing grounds and the remaining 2.22% belongs to the unified surface longline census, which fishes both in Spanish waters and in those of the EU, in those of third countries and on the high seas.
In relation to imports and exports, both fell in 2020, but recovered in 2021, even surpassing the data for 2018 and 2019. Imports in 2021 were 1,786.4 tons with a value of 7,483 million euros, with growth of 5.8% and 14.7%, respectively. Exports in 2021 were 1,168 tons with a value of 4,701 million, which represents growth of 6.6% and 17.1%, respectively. With these figures, the balance of the commercial balance of the fishing sector was deficit in this period in 2,781 million.
Regarding the consumption of fishing products in homes, 2020 registered a considerable increase, due to the confinement of citizens and the closure of the Horeca channel for several months as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Thus, in 2020 the domestic consumption of fish grew by 9% to 24.83 kilos per year per person, compared to 22.5 kilos in 2019. In fact, that year Spain became the first EU country in spending on fish and shellfish by households. Even so, this figure does not reverse the continuous downward trend that the country has been experiencing since 2014. Likewise, consumption also grew by 12% in value, standing in 2020 at 221.48 euros per capita per year compared to 195.06 euros per capita per year in 2019.
CFP Reform and Sustainable Fishing and Fisheries Research Law
Looking to the future, the sector will have to face the possible reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), in force since 2013, and the future Law on Sustainable Fisheries and Fisheries Research, whose bill was approved last May. Regarding the first, the sector believes that, in order to respond to the new geopolitical challenges and climate change, decisions must be put at the center of fishermen and based on science and data and not on the emotions used by demagogic campaigns. At this point, it should be noted that, according to the latest FAO SOFIA report, 82.5% of the catches landed in the world come from sustainably managed fish stocks .
Likewise, in the opinion of the sector, it is not a question of making a complete reform of the CFP, but of essential questions in which the problem is not the application, as the European Commission (EC) affirms, but the bad design of Certain standards. Such is the case of the landing obligation on which different scientists have already expressed a need to rethink and use a different approach to avoid unwanted catches and eliminate discards. Likewise, the sector and scientists point out the impossibility of achieving the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) for all species at the same time or the need to review some measures of the proposed Control Regulation, such as the margin of tolerance, due to the impossibility of compliance.
In relation to the proposal for the closure of 87 zones to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems in the waters of Spain, Portugal, France and Ireland , the sector requests to have all the scientific information and an in-depth analysis of the socio-economic impact. In his opinion, as the proposal is presented, it would be a “disaster” for the sector and especially for some fisheries, such as the bottom longliners of the Port of Celeiro and the Burela Fisheries Producers Organization, by capturing in these areas around 75% hake.
Lastly, and with respect to the Draft Law on Sustainable Fishing and Fisheries Research, Cepesca considers that it does not guarantee the legal certainty of fishing companies in our country by not specifying that the possible new criteria for the distribution of fishing opportunities will not affect those already made in accordance with current law. In addition, it maintains that the reservation of 10% of all fishing possibilities is excessive and more so considering that, in recent years, the Administration has reserved a maximum of between 2% and 3%.
The sector is also concerned about the article that refers to the management of unused fishing opportunities, as the Government establishes the possibility of “expropriating” them without compensation to companies that do not use them for two consecutive years and regrets the elimination of the Law of article 64 of the current law referring to the adoption of measures to promote mixed companies. For the sector, these companies create employment and wealth, in Spain and in the countries where they invest, in addition to contributing to the supply of the Spanish market and to the food sovereignty of the EU.
Commitment to the environment
In the period covered by this new Report, Cepesca has joined the Platform for the Promotion of Ecofuels to meet the decarbonisation commitments set out in the European Green Deal and has continued to develop various environmental initiatives.
Thus, the sector launched the REDUSE project to comply with the European Directive on single-use plastics (SUP) , promote the eco-design of fishing gear and define a proposal for a management system for the collection, treatment and sustainable processing of waste derived from fishing gear and gear. The project, which this year continues with REDUSE-II , has made it possible to make the first diagnosis of gear and gear management, establish the potential for recycling nets in the main types of fishing, and define a management protocol for this waste.
Added to this initiative are the ACTUAZUL and SEAYOURLITTER projects. The first to unite coastal populations by creating opportunities in the field of the blue economy and the second to prevent pollution of seas and oceans, with the participation of the sector in collection actions -where the trawler fleet has a strategic value – and awareness.
Source: Press Release