Socioecological changes in data-poor S-fisheries: A hidden shellfisheries crisis in Galicia (NW Spain)
We combined different data sources to analyse key changes in the shellfisheries of Galicia (NW Spain). The shellfishing capacity of this region, a major fishing power in Europe, has been severely reduced in recent decades. The number of vessels has fallen by 13%, vessel length, capacity and engine power have decreased by 10%, 7% and 3%, respectively, while the number of on-foot shellfishers has halved. Landings and sale value of shellfish species have declined in the last decade by 16% and by 13%, respectively. This decline follows a period of recovery from the mid-1980s, when coastal fishery management were transferred from the Spanish to the regional government. Production of local clam species has been progressively abandoned in favour of the foreign Japanese carpet shell Ruditapes philippinarum, leading to losses in sales value and increasing market risks. Overfishing, poaching, degradation of habitats, pollution, disease outbreaks and ocean warming may be responsible for the drop in landings and sales value of key species like edible cockle Cerastoderma edule and Atlantic goose barnacle Pollicipes pollicipes. Despite the development of new fisheries, e.g. algae, anemone and polychaete harvesting, the overall declining trend has important socioecological implications for Galician society, because of the traditional link between shellfishing and coastal communities. The socioecological sustainability of this sector requires policies to be developed by the regional government regarding the support of multidisciplinary research and surveillance, increase control over pollution and poaching, a greater focus on the production of native species and the strengthening of co-management frameworks.