Original publication: April 2018
Author: Carmen-Paz Marti, Seconded National Expert
Short link to this post: http://bit.ly/2N6ByKr

Geographical framework

The Autonomous Community of Andalusia is in the south of the Iberian Peninsula and borders Portugal to the west, the Autonomous Communities of Extremadura and Castile-La Mancha to the north, the Region of Murcia to the east and Gibraltar to the south (Figure 1).

 

Andalusia is in a strategic position in the far south of Europe. It is separated from Morocco on the north coast of Africa by the Strait of Gibraltar, which is 14 km across at its narrowest point. The Strait is a migratory route for fish and birds between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, and records a high density of maritime traffic. It is also a migratory route for people coming from North Africa and the sub-Saharan region.

The Andalusian coast has an Atlantic region, around the Gulf of Cádiz, and a Mediterranean region, around the Alboran Sea. It stretches for 1 100 km from the western border with Portugal, at the Guadiana River, to the eastern end at Cabo de Gata.

The territory spans 87 268 km² and is the most populated Autonomous Community in Spain, with 8 411 207 inhabitants as at 1 January 2016 and a population density of 96.38 inhab/km². The Atlantic region of the coast is home to the Guadalquivir basin, which includes the Guadalete-Barbate and Tinto-Odiel sub-basins, and the Guadiana basin. The coast’s main sedimentary contributors are fluvial.

Figure 1: Location of the Autonomous Community of Andalusia

Political and administrative structure

The Autonomous Community of Andalusia is one of 17 in Spain. It was granted autonomy in 1981 with the approval of the Statute of Autonomy. The Statute gave it powers over health, education, security, housing, agriculture, farming, fisheries and public finances. It recognises the existence of an Andalusian Government with executive powers and a Parliament with general legislative capacity.

The Autonomous Community’s capital is Seville (in the province of the same name), where the Andalusian Government, which organises the region’s self-government, and the Parliament, have their seats.

Andalusia is divided into eight administrative provinces, five of which have a coast: two Atlantic (Huelva and Cádiz) and three Mediterranean (Málaga, Granada and Almería).

Physical environment, seabeds and hydrography

The coast of Andalusia has a total of 65 municipalities, which make up only 10% of the whole territory.

Maritime climate

The Atlantic coasts experience semidiurnal tides of two metres on the Cádiz coast, becoming smaller towards the Strait area (80 cm in the Bay of Algeciras) and almost imperceptible on the Mediterranean coast. The swell on the Atlantic coast is influenced by big storms out to sea. Winds become stronger where the Strait of Gibraltar narrows, which channels them and intensifies their speed.

Coastal geography

The Andalusian coast has two very different geographical sections: a western section up to the Strait of Gibraltar, which is exposed to the Atlantic Ocean, and an eastern section, from the Strait to Almería, which is exposed to the Mediterranean. The coasts are sandier in the Atlantic region because of the Guadalquivir depression, and there are cliffs and rocky coves along the Mediterranean coast as a result of the mountain systems. The continental shelf can be split into three sections in the Atlantic region, with the widest stretch of 30 km located on the Huelva coast. Its width decreases towards the Strait. The Mediterranean shelf is 10 km across at its widest point.

Cultural heritage

This includes archaeological remains on land, such as: the Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia in Tarifa; underwater remains, such as the Las Morenas shipwreck in San Fernando; paleontological sites and traditional buildings, as well as military fortifications.

Protected marine areas

There are a total of 244 protected areas in Andalusia, of which 28 (approximately 12% of the total) are on the coast. They are controlled by either the Autonomous Community, the State or the EU. Among them are the protected coastal areas of Bahía de Cádiz, Cabo de Gata, the Doñana marshlands and dunes, Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural Park and El Estrecho Natural Park (Figure 2).

There are two important national marine reserves in the Mediterranean region, set up with a view to protecting and restoring fisheries and thus enabling their marine ecosystems to recover. They are the Cabo de Gata-Nijar and Alboran Island reserves.

Figure 2: Protected marine areas in Andalusia

Atlantic region

Gulf of Cádiz

The Gulf of Cádiz and the Alboran Sea are significant because, together, they form part of an oceanographic system that is extremely important for the flow of water between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Sea-land exchanges of mass and energy from riverbeds combined with weather conditions with predominantly easterly winds make the area around the gulf’s main river mouth a spawning ground for marine species of commercial interest.

There are Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) for conservation in the coastal area, including the SCI of Bahía de Cádiz Natural Park and its seabeds, and the Punta de Trafalgar SCI near Barbate. Some have been assigned national or even regional international environmental protection status by the Commission for protecting and conserving the North-East Atlantic and its resources (OSPAR). Others have been designated Special Protection Areas for birds (SPAs), with some birds at risk of extinction. The Isla Cristina marshlands, which are a designated SCI and SPA, are important bird breeding areas for the white stork, spoonbill, avocet and stone curlew. What is more, waders use them as migratory corridors and wintering areas. The Audouin’s gull (Larus audouinii) is also often in the area, particularly in the winter months.

The Strait of Gibraltar

The Strait of Gibraltar is one of the key points globally for the migration of birds. It is the main connection point on the migratory route between the European and African continents. Its geographical location, along with the strong winds prevailing from the east (easterly) and west (westerly), make the Strait of Gibraltar one of the most important ‘bottlenecks’ for migration in the Mediterranean, as millions of land birds are forced to pass through it on their annual migratory journeys. The mass migration of gliding birds, mainly birds of prey and storks, is particularly important, especially for those that breed or winter in the Mediterranean. This channel just 14 km wide is the only natural connection between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Practically all the populations that migrate between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean are concentrated in the Strait.

The largest protected space in the Atlantic region is the Andalusia-Morocco Intercontinental Reserve, which is a protected Biosphere Reserve (Figure 3).

The Strait has not yet been declared a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), although civil society has been pressing for it to become one. The international dimension of marine protection is key to reducing the impact of maritime activities that pollute the sea.

Figure 3: Protected marine areas – Strait of Gibraltar

Fisheries economy

The Andalusian fisheries sector is defined as a food-producing fishing sector, from production to consumption, and is formed of five branches of activity. In 2016, the breakdown was:

  • Fish catching: 1 486 vessels
  • Marine aquaculture:              95 companies
  • Shellfishing on foot/by freediving: 293 licences
  • Wholesale trade: 611 companies
  • Processing industry: 43 companies

In 2016, the Andalusian fisheries sector employed 20 774 people. Recreational sea fishing is a strong sector and already had 200 000 licences in 2008. It is a recreational activity practised from a beach, rock, quay, breakwater or boat.

Among the main port infrastructures associated with all of these activities are a total of 36 Autonomous Community ports, including those on Isla Cristina in Huelva and Conil in Cádiz. There are 7 state ports of general interest, including one in the Bay of Algeciras, 30 fishing ports, 43 marinas and 16 commercial ports, such as the one in Gelves in the province of Seville (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Ports on the Andalusian coast

In 2016, Andalusian fisheries sector contributed more than EUR 345 million to regional GDP. This was 6% higher than the previous year, and consolidated the cycle of economic growth that the sector had started seeing in 2013. The fisheries sector represents 0.21% of Andalusia’s GDP and contributes 8.4% of the state fisheries sector’s gross value added.

The wholesale trade of fisheries products is the branch of activity that has generated the most added value, representing almost 39% of the total added value generated by the fisheries sector. With regard to primary activities, fish catching and marine aquaculture together represented around 40% (fish catching 35% and aquaculture 5%), while the industrial branch represented more than 21%.

The Cádiz fisheries sector generated more than one third of total wealth in 2016. That growth is led by both the processing industry and wholesale trade.

The province of Huelva is an important one: its fisheries sector represented almost 27% of economic data in 2016, which is an increase of 8% on the 2015 data. The marked economic upturn is the result of increases in fish caught for freezing and growth in the Huelvan aquaculture sector.

External trade balance

Currently, 7.7% of Spanish sales of fisheries products are exported abroad from Andalusia. The regional fish-products market essentially continues to be an importer because consumption is greater than internal production. Fishing companies’ exports grow year after year. Exports grew by almost 44.5% in ten years, and currently represent 42.2% of imports received.

Employment in the fisheries sector

Employment is essential to stability and development in coastal communities. Of the 20 774 registered jobs in the Andalusian fisheries sector, one third (a total of 7 046) are generated by direct activities, whether on fishing vessels, shellfishing on foot and by immersion, or in marine aquaculture farms. Almost all the remaining two thirds come from indirect activities associated with fisheries, including wholesale and retail activity, and the employment created by the fish processing industry. For every direct job in fishing, there are two indirect.

Figure 5: People employed in the Andalusian fisheries sector by activity and gender. Year 2016

A positive trend began in 2014 and continued in 2016, putting employment at similar levels to those of 2010. This growth has mainly been driven by wholesale trade activity, and to a lesser extent by aquaculture and the processing industry. The provinces of Cádiz and Huelva have the largest number of unemployed people seeking work in fishing and aquaculture. They are also the provinces currently generating the most employment.

Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/617-467

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