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After 22 years, Spain has approved a new fisheries law, the Act 5/2023 on “Sustainable Fisheries and Fisheries Research”. This legislation combines economic, social, and environmental concerns to improve the fishing industry.

It played hard to get, but after two decades it’s in. This act has been in process for about two years, since the Spanish Minister of Fisheries, Luis Planas, announced the legislative project. Thus, this act aims to replace the 2001 law and emphasize the value of sustainability and science, according to the international agenda and the EU’s sustainable plans.

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According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the objective is to achieve efficiency by combining economic, social, and environmental aspects. “Strengthen the conservation and sustainable use of fishery resources, ensure that the activity contributes to job creation, wealth generation, and social cohesion of coastal areas, and strengthen the link between political action in this area”.

Therefore, the main goals of this regulation were to modernize the control and inspection tasks, the sanctioning regime in the event of malpractice and the updating of the legal system in the commercialization and transformation.

Moreover, a forum has been set up as a consultation, elaboration, and follow-up body, the Fisheries Advisory Forum.

New licensing and quota system

Act 5/2023 also establishes new mechanisms for the optimization of quotas, to be “more efficient and flexible”. First of all, the requirements necessary to carry out fishing activities are clarified, as well as funds in the sector.

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Consequently, the distribution of quotas is different. From the new act, the “historical rights” -existing fishing licenses- lose weight, due to the creation of employment and the contribution to the local economy. In addition, the expropriation of fishing licenses is established, which means that when these are not used or are sold within a certain period, they can be revoked.

Furthermore, is remarkable the work carried out against undeclared illegal fishing. This has been one of the worst economic and environmental impacts and will be pursued further.

Luarca harbor (Asturias, Spain): Photo by: Adobe Stock.

Key social and environmental issues

This act promotes measures for the protection and regeneration of fishing resources. Besides, it also regulates the fishing protection zones and the activity in the protected marine areas.

Regarding the social aspect, there are more consistent measures for certain jobs. The act officially recognizes largely female professions associated with the fishing industry as part of that, which gives them the right to early retirement, as fishermen. For instance, the early retirements cover jobs, such as the “rederos” (weavers), the “neskatillas” (relatives of the sailors -usually wives, daughters, or sisters- who receive the ships when they arrive at the harbor), the “empacadoras” (women who weigh, classify and sort the boxes of fish unloaded from the ship) and the professional scuba divers.

The integration of science

This act also seeks to incorporate science as a fundamental element of the law. For the first time, the law covers the management of fish genetic resources. This has great potential in the field of food security and opens new markets related to the sector.

Finally, Planas also celebrated the closing of the negotiations between the EU and Norway. These negotiations could be beneficial for Spain by the fishing quota for Arctic cod in the Norwegian exclusive economic zone.

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