However, there have been warnings for a long time about over-fishing, with Spain being penalized several years ago for its inconsistencies in the figures given to the EU on how many mackerel its fishermen caught and the actual sales of the fish in Spain and abroad.
According to a report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), as many as 93 different species of fish are at risk of extinction because of over-fishing in Europe’s waters, off-shore oil and gas, and also pollution.
It will probably come as no surprise that Spain has just reached its limit for the amount of fish it has in its own reserves, and that from today (10 May) it will begin to depend on other countries for its sources.
This is, in fact, one day earlier than last year, when Spain depleted its reserves on 11 May.
The date on which Spain has used up its own fish supplies has become earlier and earlier since 1990. In this year, the fish-dependency date was as late as 18 June. By 2009 it had reduced to 25 May and in 2012 it had reduced even further to 9 May. There is a similar situation in Portugal, who already used up their resources on 20 April.
Spain is the third European country with the highest consumption of fish, which is great in terms of health benefits. Each person consumes 42kg a year, which is actually double the European average.
The only countries where fish in consumed in greater quantities are Portugal (56kg/person) and Lithuania (43kg/person).
This means that three out of every five fish eaten in Spain originates from foreign waters. If everyone in this country were only allowed to eat the fish caught by Spanish fishermen in European waters, from 10 May they would no longer be able to consume any more fish for the rest of the year.
These figures also include the fish produced through aquaculture, of which Spain is the European leader, producing around 20% of the total. The study shows that without these fish, Spain’s own reserves would be depleted two months earlier – on 20 March.
The average fish-dependency date for the EU is 13 July. For some countries without a coastline, such as Austria or the Czech Republic, their own fish supplies will only last until 19 January. This is in stark comparison to The Netherlands, for example, that does have access to vast areas of sea and whose fish supplies generally last until 26 December.
Similarly, countries in which consumption is low but who have access to large fishing grounds, like the UK or Ireland, they have high levels of self-sufficiency and do not need to import fish from outside.
It has been noted that while the fishing grounds in European waters have seen their fish population reduced considerably, instead of doing something to improve the situation, many fishermen have just taken their boats further afield and fished at a deeper level.
Imports from countries outside of the EU have also risen, which could have a negative socio-economic impact on the countries involved, especially if they need their own resources more than we do in the EU.
Nevertheless, there is some good news, and that’s that a number of species of fish found in the European Atlantic have seen an increase in their population since conservation measures were adopted. These include salmon, halibut, cod, turbot and Bluefin tuna.
And the enforcement of the Common Fisheries Policy, which came into force in 2014, aims to end the practice of over-fishing by 2020, which will undoubtedly help even more species to recover.