Spain: Green light to the reform of fisheries legislation

The Spanish government has just approved the draft Law on Sustainable Fisheries and Fisheries Research. It is an update of a 2001 law aiming to reform the fisheries sector to give it a more sustainable dimension. The Spain’s fleet is the leading EU fleet in terms of catches.


Once the draft law has been approved by the Spanish cabinet, and following the corresponding parliamentary process, it is expected that this new law will be approved in the last four months of the year. This new regulation is a programmatic commitment of the government and is based on the need to update the current National Maritime Fisheries Law, enacted in 2001.

According to Minister Planas, “ in its more than 20 years of existence, a series of new developments have taken place, both in EU legislation and in international ocean governance, which means that the 2001 law is out of date”. He emphasized that the law has the principle of sustainability as a transversal axis, in a triple perspective: environmental, social and economic. This reform takes place in the context generated by the European Green Deal. It seeks to guarantee a balance between the necessary conservation of the marine environment and the development of a fishing activity that is: profitable, attractive for business development and the necessary generational replacement, consolidating a modern and competitive sector.

Pesqueros en puerto

Measures for the conservation and sustainable use of fisheries resources

In terms of fisheries management, the new law introduces measures such as limiting the volume of catches or regulating fishing effort, the gear used, the weight or size of the species or the establishment of closed seasons.

Among all the measures, the commitment to a more efficient and flexible use of fishing quotas stands out. The law also updates the mechanisms for transferring fishing opportunities between vessels. This has the dual objective of favoring business planning and optimizing the use of the quotas and days of fishing effort allocated to Spain.

The law also addresses the management of offshore recreational fisheries in order to have a better understanding of the impact of this activity on the economy.

Pesca recreativa

Ecosystem-based approach

The law is committed to strengthening the link between fisheries and scientific knowledge for the proper management of fisheries policy, taking into account all the interactions that occur in the marine environment. In addition to ecological issues, research campaigns should also cover social and economic aspects.

In the social field, the law also includes measures to provide improved retirement protection for certain groups of workers "whose jobs are particularly arduous and hard work".  These tasks are mostly carried out by women.

Fisheries Advisor Forum

New features of the new regulation include the creation of a Fisheries Advisory Forum, which will involve fisheries authorities, representatives of the sector and civil society. It will act as a consultation, drafting and monitoring body to ensure that fisheries policy is participatory.

Pesca I

The Spanish fisheries sector

Fisheries play an important role as a source of high quality and staple food and as a driver of the economy in coastal areas. This dynamizing role is not only limited to the activity of the coastal and artisanal fleet, as the Spanish fleet operates in all the world's seas and has a cutting-edge processing industry.

The Spanish fleet is made up of a total of 8,839 vessels, with a tonnage of 329,572 gross tons and a power of 77,2539 kilowatts. These figures place it in first place in the EU in terms of tonnage, second in terms of power (behind France) and third in terms of number of vessels (behind Italy and Greece).

In 2020, the fleet as a whole caught almost 800,000 tons of fish, of which 57.8% was caught in international waters, 34% in national waters and 7.6% in EU waters. This places the Spanish fleet at the head of the EU and among the top 20 worldwide.

Ley pesca

95.3% of the fishing fleet operates in the national fishing grounds, with the largest number of vessels (6,895) concentrated in the small gear segment. This fleet is characterized by its markedly artisanal nature, fishing close to its home ports, bringing fresh products to the market which are sold at an auction.