Pile of shrimp

Majority of seafood in Spanish fish markets breaches labelling laws, report finds

Fish markets in Spain are currently in serious breach of mandatory seafood labelling regulations, with up to 70% of all seafood sold not being labelled in line with the law, a new report has found.

Sustainable seafood lawyers from environmental law charity ClientEarth today released a report which exposes the scale of labelling breaches at Spanish fish markets and makes key recommendations for increasing compliance.

ClientEarth sustainable seafood lawyer Nieves Noval said: “What our report shows is that there is a serious lack of information about seafood products being sold at Spanish fish markets– this illegality is widespread and seemingly going unchecked.”

Improper labelling is one of the biggest factors for seafood products, caught illegally or sourced from overexploited fisheries, being sold to unaware consumers. The issue is a direct threat to the sustainable development of the nation’s fishing sector and the conservation of its waters and marine resources.

As part of the Buying seafood: everything they’re not telling us report, researchers analysed information provided on labels and posters for 266 products at 36 seafood stalls in Spanish fish markets. Key findings included:

  • Up to 70% of mandatory labelling information was not provided
  • The production method was missing on three-quarters of all products
  • The scientific name of the species was missing on around eight in ten products
  • The area where the species was caught or processed was missing on up to three-quarters of all products
  • Around 95% of all products lacked minimum duration or expiration details
  • The type of fishing gear used was missing on up to 85% of products
  • Overall just 2% of seafood sold was labelled with additional voluntary information, and in the majority of cases there was none
  • Readability or visibility of label information was inadequate for more than one in five products

Noval added: “In markets across the country, this failure to provide compulsory information might lead to seafood that has been caught illegally or from overexploited fisheries ending up on the plates of unwitting customers.

“Current consumer regulations are a key element to ensure seafood sustainability. All mandatory legal requirements for seafood products are essential for consumers to be able to make responsible purchases.

“The seafood industry needs to stamp out these practices, by making all mandatory information available to consumers. This report shows that Spanish authorities must now carry out exhaustive efforts to monitor, investigate and, where appropriate, impose sanctions to ensure compliance.

Other key recommendations include simplifying the complex existing legislation across European, national and autonomous communities in Spain, as well as educating consumers about the importance of labelling and its environmental benefit.

A full copy of the report in Spanish can be found here and the executive summary in English can be found here.

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