Expansion of intensive aquaculture in Ria de Arousa, Spain

In 2015, the Xunta de Galicia enacted a new legislation aiming to expand aquaculture. However, strong mobilization and demonstrations of the Galician fishing and seafood sector, managed to stop this legislation.


Galicia is one of the main autonomous communities in Spain, where fisheries, aquaculture and shellfish collection sectors have been developed widely [10]. With suitable zones for further aquaculture production, Galicia has been one of the main targets for the expansion of the sector according to the multi annual national strategic aquaculture plan of Spain [3, 15, 16]. 

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Basic Data
NameExpansion of intensive aquaculture in Ria de Arousa, Spain
ProvinceA Coruña
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Water access rights and entitlements
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific CommoditiesFish
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsGalicia is one of the main autonomous communities in Spain, where fisheries, aquaculture and shellfish collection sectors have been developed widely [10]. With suitable zones for further aquaculture production, Galicia has been one of the main targets for the expansion of the sector according to the multi annual national strategic aquaculture plan of Spain [3, 15, 16].

Accordingly, in 2015, the responsible regional authority, i.e. the Xunta de Galicia, has carried out the draft of a new aquaculture legislation for the sector's expansion in Galicia, following the strategic steps set by Europe and then Spain. It aimed to apply an intensive aquaculture model in Galicia which can be easily expanded [1, 14].

APROAMAR has underlined in its letter to the official administration ('Conselleria') that the proposed legislation was undermining the traditional and artesanal fishing and shellfishing sectors and included the risk of leading to the privatisation of common areas with the new system of concessions. They revealed that they are afraid of the capital interests of big enterprises and consolidations. Moreover, they highlighted that such a system would lead to a production above the natural limits of the ecosystem [14].

Members of APROAMAR and of the Platform for the Defense of Ría de Arousa (Plataforma en Defensa da Ría de Arousa) underline that Norwegian companies such as Northwest Food already had installed salmon farms in Galicia, which had led to several conflicts in 2011. As a result of these conflicts, where around thirty fisher boats were protesting and resisting their establishment on their waters, the company had to replace their cages [7, 16]. The North West Food company was claiming that it had invested more than 3 million Euros since 2008 and that it was its right to produce in Galicia [12]. At that period, however, the opponents of aquaculture projects were already warning the authorities that the mobilisations would continue since it is an injustice and these fish farms would lead to water contamination as well as create a risk for the loss of around 5,000 jobs [7] .
Project Area (in hectares)17,300
Level of Investment (in USD)3,000,000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population15,000
Start Date03/08/2015
Company Names or State EnterprisesNorth West Food Sl (North West Food) from Spain
Sociedad Española de Acuicultura (SEA) from Spain
Asociacion Empresarial de Acuicultura de España (APROMAR) from Spain
Relevant government actorsConselleria do Mar,

MAPAMA (Ministerio de Agricultua y Pesca, Alimentacion y Medio Ambiente),

Xunta de Galicia
International and Financial InstitutionsConselleria do Mar (Conselleria do Mar) from Spain
Ministerio de Agricultua y Pesca, Alimentacion y Medio Ambiente (MAPAMA) from Spain
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAPROAMAR (Colectivo en defensa de los autónomos del mar)

La Plataforma en Defensa de la Ría de Arousa: https://www.facebook.com/PDRArousa/

Federación Galega de Cofradias
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Shellfish collectors, fisher cooperatives (cofradias)
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseMoratoria
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of the proposed legislation
Development of AlternativesThe alternative proposed by mobilized groups has been stopping the new aquaculture leglislation that favors the growth of large scale and intensive aquaculture facilities and instead favoring small-scale or traditional aquaculture and small-scale and traditional fishing.

At the end of the conflict, Galician government withdrew definitively the legislation for the expansion of aquaculture [10].
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The aquaculture legislation could have been stopped for the time being thanks to all protests of fisher people and shellfish sectors of Galicia.
Sources and Materials

Procedure of the permits for marine aquaculture facilities in Galicia [2]
[click to view]

Multiannual Aquaculture Strategy Plan of Spain (Plan Estratégico Plurianual de la Acuicultura Española) [3]
[click to view]

Strategy for the sustainable development of aquaculture in Europe [4]
[click to view]

Aquaculture strategy plans of autonomous regions in Spain [15]
[click to view]

Executive summary of the national aquaculture strategic plans in Spain for 2014-2020 [16]
[click to view]

The draft aquaculture legislation in Galicia [1]
[click to view]


Political lessons from early warnings: Marine finfish aquaculture conflicts in Europe (Ertör and Ortega, 2015) [16]
[click to view]


Conselleria do Mar endorses the salmon cages because Galicia 'can not afford that luxury' (2011) [6]
[click to view]

North West Food installs the first salmon cage in Muros (2011) [7]
[click to view]

Northwest Food has been selling Galician salmon for a month (2016) [8]
[click to view]

Galicia surprises Norway by the speed with which salmon is raised. (2009) [9]
[click to view]

North West Food keeps the plan in Muros because it is their "right" and urges the sector to "go to the judge" with their complaints. (2011) [12]
[click to view]

Galicia definitively withdraws its legislation for aquaculture (24 of February 2016) [10]
[click to view]

Mobilizations of the mussel and shellfish sector associations against the draft aquaculture legislation (2015) [11]
[click to view]

Thousands of people take Santiago in defense of the sea (2016) [13]
[click to view]

Fisherwomen want their work to be more profitable, but without the aquaculture law (2016) [5]
[click to view]

La Asociación de Autónomos del Mar también alega contra la ley de Acuicultura de Galicia (28 December 2015) [14]
[click to view]

Other Documents

Cartel manifestación Santiago
[click to view]

Niños portan una pancarta tras la llegada de la marcha al Obradoiro. ÓSCAR CORRAL Source: https://elpais.com/ccaa/2016/02/27/galicia/1456589566_782467.html
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorAPROAMAR; [email protected]
Last update26/03/2018