Spanish aquaculture sector draws strength from different sources

Over the past 30 years, Spain has developed its aquaculture sector through technological investments and the promotion of marine and inland aquaculture products. Promotion has been done at government, association, and at producer level. Different tools have been used, such as fairs, exhibitions, implementation of standards, designation of origin, as well as marketing and information campaigns.

Spain is one of the top 20 aquaculture producers in the world and the top aquaculture producer in Europe, with 271,963 tonnes in 2011, which represents roughly 21.5% of total European production. The aquaculture activity supports around 5,120 processing establishments and 97% of these facilities are in marine areas, whereas the rest are in inland waters. The large variety of sites in Spain for farming fish has encouraged the development of multiple production systems that have allowed the farming of 50 different species of fish, molluscs and crustaceans.


Strong R and D facilities back the industry

In 1984 the mariculture law was published in Spain to facilitate the coordination and cooperation among all those involved in aquaculture. This law established the creation of the National Advisory Board for Marine Aquaculture (JACUMAR) chaired by the Secretary General of the Sea. Creating JACUMAR, was a key instrument to overcome the challenge of devolution to the regions where Spanish aquaculture still had not fully developed. After joining the European Union in 1986, different funding lines were opened and more than 4,000 projects were launched amounting to 375 million euros, causing a clear impact on the national aquaculture production. Aquaculture requires a high level of technology and constant research and development to improve the science that underpins the sector. Therefore, the Spanish Institute of Oceanography, and other Spanish bodies and aquaculture research centres, have developed major research programs and training plans for aquaculture specialists.

As a way to disseminate knowledge, JACUMAR has launched the National Aquaculture Conference and multiple Technical Forums. Moreover, in order to strengthen ties between the research and aquaculture sectors, research awards are given to companies with the most innovative works and for their implementation of environmental management systems.
The main activities carried out by government agencies in terms of promotion are: the encouragement of consumption of fisheries products and aquaculture through advertising and promotional campaigns on television, radio, in markets and schools; supporting participation of fisheries companies in fairs and exhibitions worldwide, as well as providing support for the creation of designations of origin.

The success of the Spanish aquaculture sector can be attributed to close collaboration between research institutions, the authorities, and the industry through its associations.


“Galician mussels” is a protected designation

“Galician Mussels Protected Designation of Origin” is the only aquaculture designation of origin in Spain. The Regional Executive of Galicia managed the application to the European Commission, and currently the governing body of the Regulatory Council of the Galician Mussel is represented by producers, marketers and three members of the Regional Executive of Galicia. The purpose of its formation was to promote and enhance the quality of Galician Mussels.

The EU established a unified law framework for all kind of brands, names, and other quality figures linked to a particular geographical area, forcing member countries to reconvert all kinds of brands and regulations which refer to the origin as a determinant factor in the product quality. Then, the Regulatory Council requested the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), reaching the recognition of “Galician Mussels Protected Guarantee of Origin”. The number of producers within the Galician Mussel PDO has remained stable since the beginning of its business activities. Most of the Galician producers (over 3,000) are registered at the Regulatory Council, and a wide variety of companies involved in trading fresh and processed Galician Mussels are represented.

OPMEGA (Organization of Producers of Galician Mussels) is one of the Spanish aquaculture associations and all the members are registered with the Galician Mussels Regulatory Council and use the denomination of Origin “Galician Mussel” to add value to their products.
There are 3,300 floating platforms in Galicia that produce roughly 213,000 tonnes per year which represents 94% of the Spanish production and 50% of global production, and the Association of producers of Galician Mussels has 1,230 member producers, representing 1,800 floating platforms. There are 12 associations of producers that are members of OPMEGA.


Farming sector well represented by associations

In Spain, there are eight main lobbying associations: APROMAR (The National Association of Marine Aquaculture), OPMEGA (Organization of Producers of Galician Mussels), AQUAPISCIS (The National Association of Inland Aquaculture), CEPESCA (Spanish Fisheries Confederation), CONXEMAR (Spanish Association of Wholesalers, Importers, Manufacturers and Exporters of Fish products and Aquaculture ), ANFACO (The National Association of Fish Canneries), ANMAPE (National Association of Wholesales of Fish), FEDEPESCA (Fishery Products Retailers Association). The efficiency of the Spanish fisheries sector can be attributed to its structure, which has allowed it to specialize in their areas and to create clusters.

APROMAR is the National Business Association of marine aquaculture producers. It is a professional, voluntary and non-profit organization nationwide, which represents the business sector of the Spanish marine aquaculture, providing services that help to improve the competitiveness of the partners and encourage socially responsible behaviour for sustainable aquaculture. In terms of the promotion, one of the main activities carried out by APROMAR was the coordination of a promotional campaigns on television for marine aquaculture products under the brand “Crianza del Mar”, owned by the association and created with the support of the Regulation Fund and Organisation of the Fish and Marine Crop Products Market (FROM) and the General Secretariat of Maritime Fisheries to endorse the fish quality of the Spanish marine aquaculture. This quality was guaranteed by the strict compliance of the brand rules. The seabream and seabass are easily identified by a plastic label attached to their gills showing the brand logo.

The inland aquaculture in Spain started 50 years ago, basing its activity on the production of rainbow trout. AQUAPISCIS, the association of Spanish continental aquaculture, was the first agrifood inter-professional organization established and recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture. The member organizations are organizations of producers, processors and marketers. The origin of this National Association was motivated by the need of initiating joint marketing in the major referent markets and in some cases, to coordinate supply. Currently the activity is mainly done by each individual organization; they have addressed the needs of sectoral representation. The advertising and promotional activities have been one of the main occupations. The organizations ensure the competitiveness and viability of associated companies in a global market, ensuring food safety and quality of products and they seek to transfer to Spanish society the reality of this activity and opportunities for socio-economic development and employment opportunities in rural areas.


Embracing the internet to boost information and sales

One of the producers’ organizations launched a website called Piscis Platform, which is a technical solution based on technological innovation to facilitate and help those interested in the world of trout and inland aquaculture to enjoy all the possibilities offered by farms. The creation of this platform answers the industry's need to adapt to changing times, improving profitability and business viability, taking rural development and the incorporation of women into the work. Piscis Platform aims to achieve improved functionality covering several aspects: opening new distribution channels, improvement of producer-client relationship, obtaining real-time information of products’ prices , encouragement of new presentations for trout, “online” sharing of ideas and collaboration among participants, promoting different services with the possibility of selling online in the near future, providing a database information, as well as adapting to the mobile environment to improve the accessibility. In addition, inland aquaculture producers want to encourage all types of activities related to trout consumption, and rural aquaculture tourism opens endless possibilities for farms, consumers and fishing enthusiasts in general. Environmentally sustainable tourism will develop the regional potential and should emphasize the inclusion of rural women in managing rural aquaculture tourism.

The diversity of activities offered by rural aquaculture tourism is quite broad: promotion of fish aquaculture products by tasting and pairing with wines and other typical local products, workshops and views on the operation of a farm, direct sales, sport fishing, sports related: canoeing, rafting, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and skiing, as well as other activities for children and promotion of areas of interest in the vicinity.

Individually, the aquaculture producers have found the channels to get to retailers. It is important to highlight that, the implementation of all the private standards, ISO 22,000, ISO 14,001, ISO 9,001, Global G.A.P., IFS, BRC, OHSAS 18001 and others, has became a must for some retailers. For this reason, the aquaculture producers implement and certify the schemes that make easier the access to the market.

The partnership between the government and the aquaculture industry, the associations within the sector, and independent initiatives, have transformed the sector into one of the most dynamic and successful in Europe.