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The Spanish market for squid.

Spain is the world's second largest market for squid (behind Japan) and a major player in world squid trade. Spanish annual consumption of squid and other cephalopods was almost 200,000 metric tons (t) in 1987, or about 5 kg per person. To supply this growing market, Spanish fishermen increased their squid catch to a record 80,000 t in 1986, much of it from the rich Falklands area off the coast of Argentina. Even with this record squid catch, however, Spain has been forced to increase its squid imports substantially. Spain imported $170 million worth of squid in 1987, over twice its 1986 imports, making it a net importer of cephalopods for the first time. Spanish squid imports are likely to remain high in the future, but not at the record levels recorded in 1987. Squid imports decreased in 1988.

The Seafood Market

Spain is the world's ninth largest market for edible fishery products. Spaniards consume an average of 1.3 million t of fishery products per year (1984-86), making their market the second largest (behind France) within the EuroPean Community (EC). Spain's per capita fisheries consumption increased from about 31 kg per year in the early 1980's to about 34 kg in recent years. Part of this increase can be ascribed to tourism. Spain's warm climate and low prices attract growing numbers of tourists who eat in restaurants where seafood is prominently featured. Popular menu items include broiled hake, paella (seafood and chicken over saffron rice), and grilled shrimp.

Spanish consumers prefer fresh fishery products, which have always been readily available in Spain. Flanked bY both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, Spain has several major ports-Vigo, Bilbao, and Santander in the north, Barcelona in the east, and Cadiz in the south and many smaller ports linked to a well-developed distribution system. Fresh fish is available in inland cities as well as on the coast. The largest inland market is Madrid's wholesale food market, Mercamadrid, where large quantities of fresh and frozen fishery products from all over the world change hands daily-leading some Spanish observers to refer to the huge market as Spain's "number one port."

Spain's frozen fisheries market has only recently begun to compete with the larger fresh market. Improvements in marketing and distribution, as well as the growing availability of freezers, led to a 70 percent increase in frozen food consumption from 1983 to 1987. In 1987, Spanish consumers purchased over $230 million worth of frozen fishery products. Hake accounted for 78 percent of frozen sales, while cephalopods (10 percent), crustaceans (6 percent), and soup preparations (6 percent) made up the remainder.

The Squid Market

Spain's consumption of squid and other cephalopods is second only to Japan, and is the highest in Europe. In 1987, Spaniards consumed 194,000 t of squid and other cephalopods, or about 5.0 kg per capita (separate data for squid alone are not available). Squid reaches the consumer in a variety of ways. At fish shops and open markets, squid is sold fresh (local domestic catch) or defrosted. Consumers use it to make deep-fried squid rings or paella, for example. The restaurant and catering trade also provides large quantities of squid to Spaniards and tourists. Battered squid rings are cooked and sold on street comers, squid dishes are served in many bars as appetizers (tapas), and most restaurant menus feature squid.

Although most fishery products in Spain are sold fresh, a growing proportion of squid is sold frozen, much of it prepared for a specific use. For example, Frigorificos Delfin [1] a Spanish whole sale and retail company, sells the following frozen squid products under the Delfin brand name: Skinless squid tubes, with or without wings (tubos de calamar); squid rings (anillas de calamar); squid rings in batter (calamares a la romana); and paella ingredients, including squid rings (preparado de paella). Other companies marketing frozen squid products in Spanish supermarkets include Pescanova (Spain's largest frozen food company), Frudesa, Frumar, Krupemar, Findus, and La Cocinera.

[1] Mention of trade names or commercial firms does not imply endorsement by the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA.

Spain's Squid Fishery

Spain's domestic fisheries catch is the eighteenth largest in the world and the second largest in the EC (behind Denmark's); it has averaged about 1.4 million t during the 1980's. The largest harvests, by quantity, are mussels (200,000 t in 1987), pilchards (160,000 t), and Cape hakes (150,000 t). Though squid is Spain's fourth largest fishery, averaging about 80,000 t in 1986-87, it accounts for only 5.6 percent of Spain's very diverse domestic catch. This is a slight increase from the early 1980's, when squid made up 4.6 percent of the total. Spain's squid fishery-both in terms of fishing areas and species caught-has undergone marked changes during the 1980's. Although the squid catch declined during the mid-1980's, it reached record levels by 1986-87.

Fishing Areas

Early in the 1980's, Spain's most important squid fishing areas were the southeast Atlantic (off the coast of Africa) and the northwest Atlantic (off the coast of the United States). From 1980 to 1983, Spain's squid fishery in the northwest Atlantic declined because of the "Americanization" of the U.S. squid fishery. Foreign allocations of squid within the U. S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) were decreased as the U. S. capacity to fish for squid increased. (There are now more than 10 U.S. freezer-trawlers fishing for squid in the northwest Atlantic.) During 1984-85, Spain's loss of this northwest Atlantic fishery was compounded by another setback. Its squid catch off West Africa (southeast Atlantic) declined, temporarily, because increased fishing by several nations had depleted squid stocks. Thus, in 1984-85, Spain's squid catch was about 40 percent lower than in the early 1980's.

The squid fishery recovered when Spanish fishermen began fishing off the Falklands beginning in 1983. Spain's squid catch in the southwest Atlantic at first roughly equalled its earlier losses in the northwest Atlantic. In 1986-87, however, the Falklands catch surged to over 40,000 t, accounting for half of Spain's squid catch. In 1988, the squid catch around the Falklands increased still further, to an estimated 84,000 t. Meanwhile, the squid fishery off West Africa also recovered.

The future of Spanish squid fishing in its two key fishing areas-the Falklands and the coast of West Africa-depends on two related factors: Squid stocks and fishing agreements. The Falkland Islands Government moved to regulate squid fishing in its 150-mile fisheries zone in early 1988, establishing a license system. Reports indicate that the Government plans to distribute licenses so that Asian and Polish fishing in the zone decrease, while British-Falklands joint ventures and fishing by other EC nations increase. Thus, Spain was able to increase markedly its squid catch in the Falklands zone in 1988. Its 84,000 t catch was 20 percent of the total squid catch in the Falklands fisheries zone. The long-term effect of licensing on Spain's squid fishery is difficult to estimate, however. If squid stocks appear to be overfished (or declining for some other reason such as decreased food supply), fewer fishing licenses will be issued. The Falkland Islands Government considers squid management a delicate task because squid are annual species-the next year's fishery depends directly on the number of squid left to spawn after the current season.

Spain's squid fishery off West Africa is also subject to limitation through licenses. In May 1988, the EC signed a 4-year (1989-92), $300 million fisheries agreement with Morocco. The terms of the agreement, which allows EC vessels to catch regulated quantities of fish and cephalopods, suggest that Spain's squid fishery in this area will decline over the next few years. The cephalopod quota for 1989, most of which was allocated to Spain, was 69,800 t. In subsequent years, however, the quota will decrease sharply, to 33,000 t in 1990 and to 29,500 t per year in 1991-92. Mauritania, which also controls part of the West African squid fishery, currently does not allow EC vessels to fish for squid.


As Spanish squid fishermen have shifted their fishing effort geographically, the composition of Spain's squid catch has also changed. Early in the 1980's, when part of the fishery was concentrated off the east coast of the United States, Spain caught substantial quantities of longfin, Loligo pealei, and common squid, Loligo spp. From the mid-1980's onward, as Spain instead began fishing around the Falklands, its catch of shortfin squid, Illex illecebrocus and I. argentinus, and other squids (mainly cuttlefish) has increased. Shortfin squid was earlier regarded as inferior to the longfin variety, but it has gained greater acceptance lately in the Spanish market. In general, as consumers buy increasing quantities of squid in prepared form, either as frozen squid rings or as precooked items, the difference between species seems to become less important.

Spain's Squid Trade

Spain was a net exporter of cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish, and octopus) until 1987. In 1980, for example, Spain imported $85 million worth of cephalopods and exported $112 million. This trend continued even during the mid-1980's, when Spain's cephalopod catch temporarily declined. As recently as 1986, imports were worth $107 million while exports were worth $134 million. In 1987, however, Spain's imports of cephalopods doubled to $221 million while its exports decreased to $118 million, making Spain a net importer of cephalopods for the first time. The surge in cephalopod imports was only part of the dramatic increase in Spain's fishery imports-from $720 million in 1986 to $1,320 million in 1987.

Spain's squid imports have quadrupled during the 1980's, from about 16,000 t in 1980 to over 70,000 t in 1987. Since 1986, when Spain became a member of the EC (and was thus included in detailed EC trade statistics), Spain has been a net importer of squid. In 1986, Spain imported $78 million worth of squid and exported $16 million. In 1987, in line with the increase in total cephalopod imports, squid imports more than doubled to $171 million, while exports increased to only $22 million. If this trend were to continue, Spain's net imports of squid could be expected to increase rapidly in future years. However, though exact data are not yet available, preliminary estimates indicate that squid imports decreased in 1988.

Some observers have suggested that 1987 was an exceptional year for the Spanish squid trade. According to this view, Spanish importers took advantage of large world supplies in 1987 to stockpile frozen shortfin squid. Much of this stockpiled squid was still being sold to processors in 1988, so that import requirements decreased.


As the preceding discussion makes clear, Spain's market for imported squid is quite volatile, as is world trade in squid. During 1986-87, this volatility was shown not only by the doubling of Spain's squid imports, but also by the shifts in its major suppliers. In 1986, the leading exporter of squid to Spain was Morocco ($12 million), followed by Taiwan and India (each $7 million). In 1987, each of those countries increased its squid exports to Spain, but the leading suppliers were the U.S.S.R. ($28 million) and Poland ($27 million). The U.S.S.R. and Poland, like Spain, recently established important squid fisheries around the Falklands (the U.S.S.R. also catches large quantities of squid in the northwest Pacific). Unlike Spain, however, neither country is a substantial consumer of squid; both are likely to continue to be large squid exporters.

Morocco (and to a lesser extent Mauritania) is an important supplier of "non-Falklands" squid to the Spanish market. Morocco is favoring its domestic squid fishery by decreasing the squid quota allocated to the EC, as mentioned, and has increased its squid exports to Spain. Unlike the three largest suppliers to the Spanish squid market-the U.S.S.R., Poland, and Taiwan-Morocco catches the bulk of its squid within its own territorial waters. Thus, it is less vulnerable to changing license agreements. Furthermore, its squid fishery is ideally located for exports to nearby Spain.

There are three major groups of squid importers in Spain: 1) Trading companies, which buy and sell squid and other fishery products; 2) importers/processors, with processing plants in Spain, the Canary Islands, or abroad, for example Compesca; and 3) importers/processors/ fishing fleets, which import to supplement their own catches. Examples of the latter include Pescanova and Frigorificos Delfin. Spanish importers and wholesalers are represented by the Spanish National Association of Seafood Importers and Wholesalers-ALIMAR, in Spanish.

Shortfin squid (pota in Spanish) was the overwhelming favorite of Spanish squid importers in 1987. "Other squid," mostly cuttlefish, have also grown in importance because of their availability in the Falkands. Longfin squid, once the clear favorite, has lost ground and apparently declined in price as other squid species have become more accepted.

Spanish importers prefer squid frozen on board ship (individually quick frozen, or IQF). Both longfin and shortfin squid are most acceptable in 1-2 kg or 5-6 kg packs (in polybags, 2 packs to a master carton). Larger packs (10-15 kg) are also acceptable. Shortfin squid are imported both whole (ungutted) and in tubes, cleaned and uncleaned. Shortfin size gradations are as follows: XX = [less than] 14 cmeters long; X = 14-18 cm; S = 18-23 cm; M = 23-28 cm; L = 28-33 cm; and XL=[greater than] 33 cm long. There is a second grading system which applies to longfin and common squid: 6 = [less than] 8 cm long; 5 = 8-12 cm; 4 = 12-16 cm; 3 = 16-20 cm; 2 = 20-24 cm; 1 = 24-27 cm; and 0 = [greater than] 27 cm long. There is reportedly little or no import market for squid rings, retail packs, or value-added products of any kind.

Import licenses are not required for cephalopod products unless they originate from Eastern European countries. However, health and labeling regulations must be followed. Health regulations require that a sanitary certificate issued by the competent authority in the country of origin accompany each shipment. In addition to stating that products have been examined for microbiological and metal content, with the results of each test recorded, the certificate must also contain the following information: Name of product, name of exporter, name of importer, mode of transport, type of packaging, number of packages, and shipment date.

Each individual carton in a shipment must be labelled with the following information in Spanish: Name of importer, country of origin, name of product, ingredients and additives, gross and net weight in grams, date of freezing, latest date on which product may be consumed (18-24 months from freezing date), and storage and transport instructions (e.g., maintain at - 18[degrees]C). These regulations for imports into Spain may change. Spain is nearing the end of its 6-year transition period into the EC (ending in 1992), and is adapting its regulations to correspond to those of other EC nations. Several EC nations have proposed standardized Community-wide health regulations modeled after those now in effect in the Federal Republic of Germany.


Although Spain was a net exporter of cephalopods for much of the 1980's, its exports of squid have been considerably smaller than its imports in 1986-87. In 1986, imports of squid exceeded exports by $60 million. In 1987, when Spanish squid imports were apparently exceptionally large, this difference increased to almost $150 million.

Most of Spain's squid exports are sold to other EC nations, including Portugal, France and Italy. Spain's membership in the EC is thus a clear advantage for its squid exporters. In 1987, Spain also exported a substantial quantity of squid to Japan, the world's largest squid market.

U.S. Squid Exports

U.S. exports of squid to Spain should be seen in the context of U.S.-Spanish fisheries trade; the figures reflect the fact that fishing is a higher priority industry in Spain. U.S. imports of fishery products from Spain far exceed its exports to that country. For example, in 1986-88, U.S. fishery imports from Spain averaged $42 million per year, while U.S. exports to Spain averaged $5 million per year. Within the EC, Spain is one of the smallest importers of U.S. fishery products.

Though U. S. exports of fishery products are relatively small, squid is a very important component of those exports. During the 1980's, squid exports (both shortfin and longfin) have averaged $1.5 million per year, accounting for almost half of the value of U.S. exports to Spain. In 1987, U. S. exports declined to under $1 million when Spain imported large quantities of shortfin squid from the U.S.S.R., Poland, and Taiwan. But in 1988, on the strength of record squid catches by U. S. fishermen, exports surged to over $4 million. These exports must be placed in perspective, however: U.S. imports of squid from Spain have averaged about $1.3 million in 1987-88, actually exceeding U.S. squid exports to Spain in 1987.

From the point of view of Spanish vessel owners, U.S. squid exports to Spain are somewhat controversial. As mentioned above, Spanish fishermen used to catch substantial quantities of squid in U. S. waters. After the "Americanization" of the squid fishery during 1986-88, some of the influential fishermen's cooperatives in Spain voiced opposition to growing squid imports from the United States. This opposition has continued, though it has not been translated into restrictions on imports of U. S. squid. In 1989, spokesmen from the cooperatives cited imports of "low-quality" squid from the United States as a factor leading to depressed squid prices in Spain (even though imports from other countries are much larger).

Despite opposition from vessel owners, Spanish importers, represented by ALIMAR, consider the United States a prime source of large longfin squid (sizes 0, 1, and 2). Because they are one of the few sources for such squid, U. S. squid exporters can expect continued access to the large Spanish squid market. In general, however, U.S. exporters can expect growing competition from several larger suppliers. A few of these suppliers, such as Poland, devote all of their squid catch to exports since there is almost no domestic market for squid. Others face advantages when exporting-to the European Community. Exporters in developing countries such as India, Morocco, and Mauritania pay lower tariffs than do U.S. exporters (cephalopod tariffs are 6-8 percent). In addition, nations such as Morocco and Mauritania face much lower transportation costs when exporting squid to Spain. Thus, U. S. squid exporters are more likely to make inroads into the Spanish market by offering large, high-quality squid rather than attempting to match the low prices of other suppliers. (Source: EFR-89/100, prepared by Brian D. McFeeters, Foreign Fisheries Analysis Branch (F/IA23), National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, Silver Spring, MD 20910.)
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Publication:Marine Fisheries Review
Date:Mar 22, 1990
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