When you look at the figures, it’s obvious that Spain is serious about seafood.
The nation’s fishing fleet boasts the highest capacity in the EU and its vessels fish in every ocean on the planet.
Spain also has one of the highest seafood consumption rates in the EU – it 46.5 million population eating on average 45kg of seafood per person each year.
In 2016 Spain produced 1.2 million tonnes of wild and farmed seafood, and almost half that figure again needed to be imported to satisfy Spanish appetites.
Yet despite increasing awareness among consumers, there is still a way to go before Spain can lay claim to a responsible and sustainable supply chain.
For a country with such market size, it’s vital for all seafood sold in Spain to be from sustainable sources, with full traceability, transparency and with absolutely no doubt about illegal fish being served up on Spanish dinner plates. So what’s needed to achieve this?
The answer lies with a collaboration of players within the sector: the fishing industry, supermarkets and retailers, domestic and international governments, NGOs and of course consumers themselves all have a part to play in contributing to greater seafood sustainability.
Work is already underway – the fishing industry and major retailers in Spain have started work on seafood sustainability measures and many supermarkets have publicly available seafood sourcing policies. But there is more to be done.
Over the last year, ClientEarth has been establishing a pre-competitive platform for all retailers and their representative bodies. This is a great opportunity to work on environmental priorities, as a pre-competitive group working together towards a common goal: for Spain to be a leader in the sale of sustainable seafood products.
There is precedence that such collaboration works. In 2011, ClientEarth released a damning report into the state of the British seafood industry revealed a bewildering range of environmental claims on fish products, leading to a confusing landscape that prevented consumers from making informed choices.
Following these revelations, the UK industry worked with ClientEarth to set up the Sustainable Seafood Coalition, a voluntary alliance of seafood businesses to come together to agree on a code of conduct. This code ensures greater transparency for customers to know where their seafood comes from, and offers credibility for retailers through improved labelling.
Today, approximately three quarters of seafood sold in UK supermarkets is now labelled and sourced responsibly.
There’s no reason such results aren’t possible for the Spanish market. We just need more transparency, more accountability and higher standards for sustainability and responsible behaviour.
Businesses must lead the change before it is too late – let’s start developing these standards beyond the legislation. Industry can also support and collaborate with the fishers that are working towards improving fishing activity, in a credible Fishery Improvement Project (FIP).
Leading this change means businesses assuming corporate social responsibility both for customers and for the planet. Meanwhile we can all help improve the health of our seas, by thinking about our choices and demanding greater transparency and sustainability.