01 Mar Fishing in Catalonia: A Declining Industry
When you’re out sailing on the sea or sunbathing on the beach, have you ever wondered whether fishing is done there? Have you ever reflected on how important fishing is to the local economy or way of life as you see the trawlers returning to port? Here at La Brava, we have pondered all these questions, done research to find the answers and prepared a summary with our most significant discoveries.
In 2015 nearly 30,000 tonnes of fish and seafood were harvested in Catalonia, generating revenues worth €100,000. While these figures don’t tell you much on their own, they are put into perspective when we consider that both have been falling year on year for decades (at least since the 1980s), except for the occasional spike. As you can see from the following graph, the number of fishing boats sailing out to sea has also decreased. There are currently 837 registered vessels. The fishing fleet based at ports in Catalonia shrank by more than 500 boats between 2003 and 2014.
These vessels are all linked to fraternities distributed along the coastal region, (excluding Baix Llobregat). There are 32 in total: Llançà, El Port de la Selva, Cadaqués, Roses, L’Escala (Alt Empordà), L’Estartit, Palamós, Sant Feliu de Guíxols (Baix Empordà), Tossa de Mar, Lloret de Mar, Blanes (Selva), Malgrat de Mar, Pineda de Mar, Calella, Sant Pol de Mar, Arenys de Mar, Mataró, Montgat – El Masnou – Premià de Mar (Maresme), Badalona, Barcelona (Barcelonès), Sitges, Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf), Calafell (Baix Penedès), Torredembarra, Tarragona (Tarragonès), Cambrils (Baix Camp), L’Ametlla de Mar, L’Ampolla, Deltebre (Baix Ebre), Sant Carles de la Ràpita—the Verge del Carme and the Sant Pere—and Les Cases d’Alcanar (Montsià).
Even in the cases where a brand has been created to associate a product with a specific region, like Palamós prawns or L’Escala anchovies, the industry related to the harvesting of these species has declined. Fifty years ago there were around fifty trawlers in L’Escala; today there are only five. Despite these figures, part of the Catalan fleet is considered oversized; in other words, it is too large for sustainable exploitation in relation to the quantity of resources.
Although this panorama doesn’t seem to leave much room for hope, we needn’t be defeatist. There are many things we can do to revive the sector while simultaneously contributing to increasing fish stocks in the Mediterranean. We have already mentioned two examples of towns which confer a stamp of quality to certain products, and there are several more: Delta de Ebro eels and mussels, Sant Carles de la Ràpita king prawns and Vilanova spiny sea snails, among others. To a greater or lesser degree, these initiatives boost sales of these products.
Another strategy is the study and dissemination of fishing past and present. This raises awareness and encourages an appreciation of the fishing world while also attracting tourists, who come to local places to eat, stay and shop. There are 16 centres of this nature in Catalonia: MARAM Centre d’Interpretació del Peix, Museu de l’Anxova i de la Sal (L’Escala), Museu de la Pesca, Centre de Documentació de la Pesca i el Mar, Espai del Peix (Palamós), Museu del Mar Can Garriga, Museu Es Tint (Lloret de Mar), Escola del Mar: Centre d’Estudis Marins de Badalona, Consorci El Far, Museu Marítim de Barcelona, Centre Interactiu del Peix (Barcelona), Museu del Mar (Vilanova i la Geltrú), Escola de Mar Garraf (Cubelles), Museu del Port de Tarragona, Centre d’Interpretació de la Pesca de l’Ametlla de Mar and Museu de la Mar de l’Ebre (Sant Carles de la Ràpita).
Apart from inviting people to visit museums, there are organised visits to ports and fish markets as well as workshops. Over the past few years fishing boat trips have become popular too. A simple Internet search will provide you with lots of information on these types of activities.
As well as soaking up the fishing culture, we can contribute to the sustainability of the fishing industry and our seas through responsible consumption. The Gastroteca offers details of products with a seal of quality and SOSpeix has a wealth of information on which species you can eat with a clear conscience and when, as well as which species to avoid because they are in danger of extinction.
Finally, you can find more information about fishing in Catalonia at the Catalan Government’s Direcció General de Pesca or at the Museu de la Pesca de Palamós. We also recommend the Mar de fons documentary produced by Televisió de Catalunya and the blog on the history of fishing Remendant les Peces.
(Translation by Sarah Marshall)