A new €3.5 million marketing campaign designed to promote the consumption of fish and seafood was backed last week by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture.
Agriculture minister Miguel Arias gave his support to the scheme organised by FROM, the seafood promotional organisation, which will focus on two advertising campaigns running in July and September and highlighting in particular the benefits of eating fish.
In addition, a consumer helpline has been set up, and a pamphlet featuring facts and figures about seafood has been produced.
But the scheme is also targeting the seafood industry, urging it to take action to protect dwindling fish stocks and ensure that the generation of consumers will be able to enjoy the same wide variety of fish.
This is the first time that FROM has run a general seafood campaign - in the past, it has focused on specific sectors of the industry such as canned seafood or individual species such as trout.
Under the slogan 'Fish is so good for you', the ad campaign will stress that eating seafood is not only good for the health but also for the future of the Spanish seafood industry, retailers and restaurants.
The ads will run on TV, radio and the print media throughout the country.
A second campaign will support FROM's earlier efforts to educate consumers about the importance of not eating immature fish. FROM has worked hard to explain that eating fish which have not yet reached maturity leads to a significant reduction in fish stocks (since only mature fish can mate and ensure that stocks are replenished), and the new campaign will provide consumers with information about the size of mature fish across a wide range of species, as well as the best time of year to buy each type of fish to ensure that it is fully mature.
As well as nationwide TV, radio and press ads, the campaign will feature a helpline and a, website . There will also be posters and information leaflets in more than 4,000 shops across Spain.
Children in particular will be targeted by the campaign in a bid to ensure that the next generation of consumers is much more aware of the danger of eating immature fish.
Spain is the third largest consumer of fish and seafood products in the world, according to Ministry of Agriculture figures, with an average annual consumption of 40 kg, more than double the EU average.
The majority of this is consumed at home - 75.3 per cent to be precise - with hotels and restaurants accounting for 21.8 per cent and catering establishments such as work canteens the remaining 2.9 per cent.
Fresh fish and seafood is by far the largest sector of the market, with total consumption of 594,000 tons and 234,000 respectively each year. However, consumption of fresh fish is in steady decline (about 2 per cent a year) while fresh seafood consumption is growing year-on-year, mainly as a result of the launch of increasing numbers of semi-prepared and convenience products.
Farm-raised fish and seafood products account for 320,000 tons each year, with some 80 per cent of this coming from mussels alone. Trout is the second most popular farmed fish, with some 30,000 tons a year, followed by sea bream with 6,500 tons, sea bass (5,000 tons), tuna (3,500 tons), turbot (4,000 tons), clams (6,000 tons), oysters (4,000 tons) and cockles (3,700 tons).
The most popular fresh fish species are sardines (132,400 tons consumed each year), hake (123,000 tons), salmon (30,000 tons), trout (28,400 tons), cod (26,200 tons) and tuna (24,200 tons).
Prawns and langoustines are the most popular fresh seafood products, accounting for 82 per cent of total consumption.
Frozen fish and seafood consumption is also continuing to grow in Spain, with total consumption estimated at 320,000 tons. Average per capita consumption is 3.8 kg for frozen fish and 3.4 kg for frozen seafood.
Ready-to-eat frozen products account for 68 per cent of the market in volume terms and 75 per cent in value. Surimi (crab sticks) is the largest category with 28.7 per cent of the market by volume, closely followed by langoustines (16.3 per cent) and king prawns (10.8 per cent). Sea bream is the most popular prepared frozen fish with 47.2 per cent of the market by volume, followed by squid with 30.01 per cent.
Canned fish and seafood sales in Spain reached 247,000 tons last year with a value of €770.3 million. Average per capita consumption is 4.3 kg.
Tuna is the biggest canned fish product, with 135,940 tons produced in 2002, followed by sardines (24,670 tons), albacore tuna (12,000 tons), cephalopods (11,675 tons), mackerel (11,540 tons), mussels (11,300 tons), anchovies (8,430 tons) and cockles (5,650 tons).