Spaniards have always been fond of seafood and were never afraid to travel far a field to fish. The Celts collected limpets off the rocks and ninth century Basque fishermen reached Faroe Islands in search of cod.
Today, Spanish fishing fleets scour world oceans in search of fish. Both Portuguese and Spanish factory trawlers have been fishing the Grand Banks off Newfoundland dry, and curiously, the government to date has been very reluctant to put an end to it.
But Spaniards know that this untenable situation cannot continue. They started to establish fish farms to make up for the shortfall, not only in the country, but to export to northern European countries which literally exhausted their fish “reserves”.
On the average Spaniards consume 32 kgs. (70.5 lbs) of fish and shellfish per year, of which 2/3 is fresh. Galician fish farmers in the north breed turbot, red bream, sole, carpet shell and Venus clams, and mussels, in the cold plankton-rich waters of the region.
Bream, sea bass, and sole are farmed in mild Mediterranean waters between Catalonia and western Andalusia.
Around the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, a part of Spain, tuna and eel are “fattened” in specially designed sea farms.
Mussel farming has reached monumental proportions in all Spanish waters exceeding 250,000 tonnes annually.
Spanish entrepreneurs approach seafood farming scientifically from the very beginning to market-ready product. The fish are hatched in laboratories, and after their initial growing period, inspected, to be released into enclosed bays with adequate fresh water circulation. Fish are fed regularly with formulated feed to ensure healthy growth.
Illness is dealt with by vaccination of fry, or if adults fall sick, the entire tank may be sacrificed. Illnesses are prevented rather than cured: anti-viral UV rays filter seawater and all fish are vaccinated in baths prior to release
Blue fin tuna, caught off the coasts of Balearic Islands and Tunisia, are fattened in specially designed cages off the coast of Murcia for 6 – 7 months, then killed an frozen (-60 C= – 76 F) for export as sashimi grade fish to Japan (3700 tonnes annually).
Turbot is a gourmet delicacy in Europe and since stocks declined dramatically after aggressive deep-sea fishing, Spanish entrepreneurs decided to farm the specie. Galician coastal waters are ideal for turbot and with Norwegian expertise and capital participation; a Spanish company (Prodemar) stated farming turbot for north European restaurants.
Today, 2000 tonnes are shipped to France, Germany and other western European republics.
There are also farms that specialize in bass and bream.
Canada boasts many salmon and mussel farms on the Atlantic coast., Several salmon farms on the Pacific coast ship millions of kilograms of filleted fish to Toronto, Montreal and other major north American cities.
Norway pioneered salmon farming in fjords and companies have capitalized on their advanced technology. You can buy fresh Norwegian salmon, packed on ice in New York, Toronto and many other cities, in excellent condition
Such quick shipping requires a well-organized and functioning distribution “machine”.
Sea fish are naturally more demanding than freshwater fish. Unlike freshwater fish, they cannot produce omega-3 oils they need to live and thrive on, so their feed must be formulated accordingly.
Turbot feed for example consists of 37 percent fish meal and fish oils, derived from pacific sardines, mackerel and herring. You can easily imagine the state of Pacific sardines, mackerel and herring stocks a few years form now. What is actually happening is that we are fishing wild species to raise farmed fish!
Around 75 percent of world fisheries are already stretched to their limit and soon there will be very few wild fish left. This is where fish farms come in to fill the gap; because growing demand will keep prices high!
Note: In 1996 Spain exported 7,841 tonnes of farmed fish (bass, turbot, bream, grey mullet, amber jack, sole, tuna, eel and salmon), this figure had risen to 17,79 tomes by 2000.