Galicia Case Study Update: New horizons in the co-management of the octopus fishery

GAP2 scientist Pablo Pita Orduna, from La Coruna University in Galicia, Northern Spain, offers an update on the findings of the GAP2 octopus fishery case study. 

Different alternatives to traditional top-down management have been implemented over the last few years in Galicia (NW Spain). In early 1990, the regional government initiated a new fisheries management system for some sedentary invertebrate species based on a Territorial User Rights to Fisheries (TURF) model. Each of the 62 fisheries organizations (cofradías) attained autonomy for decision-making, regulation, control and management of these particular resources. The other coastal resources are still managed by the autonomous government using a conventional, top-down, approach.

Following the success of this new co-management system, Galician fishers started to discuss the possibility to expand this system to other fisheries that were under the conventional top-down model. Unfortunately, scientific information and statistical databases to support new management measures are very restricted and in some cases non-existent.

The octopus fishery in Galicia is a paradigmatic example of top-down management that traditionally generates many conflicts between fishers and policy makers (Fig 1). Managers complain that their regulations are routinely ignored, while fishermen argue that these regulations are implemented without their participation.

In the meantime, the new CFP is pushing to increase fishers’ involvement in the management of their fisheries, thus European bodies are funding co-management projects, like GAP2 and GEPETO (

Within the GAP2 project in Galicia, we are developing a participatory approach to obtain and manage complementary information sources that are needed to monitor and assess fisheries. The integration of traditional fisher knowledge of habitats and fishing grounds with the available scientific knowledge is improving our spatial information about the ecosystem and about the fisheries. We are also using data loggers and log-books to allocate the CPUE of the fisheries in our study area.

The GEPETO project builds on a regional approach to fisheries management through a platform of governance that associates professional, scientific sectors and NGOs. Channeled through the South Western and North Western Regional Advisory Councils, GEPETO combines stakeholders’ resources and capabilities to improve the bio-socio-economical sustainability through long-term fisheries management plans in the Atlantic area. The case study in Galicia, coordinated by the FGCP (our partner in the case study in Galicia), is focused on the long-term sustainability and profitability of the Galician octopus fishery.

In the past few months, meetings between fishers, scientists and policy makers have been held to help overcome a confrontation that is putting at risk one of the most traditional and economically relevant fisheries in Galicia: more than 30% of the 5000 vessels operating in coastal waters are fishing octopus with traps; annual catch is approximately 2000 t, with a market value of 13 M € (Fig. 2).

In the meetings, organized by GEPETO (Fig. 3), information of the octopus fishery was provided by GAP2: interviews and mapping sessions with fishers were performed to identify the fishing grounds of the fleet (Fig. 4), while information on fishing routes and catches, collected in data-loggers and daily log-books, was used to obtain the distribution of CPUE (Fig. 5).

New meetings have been scheduled in the future and we hope that, as a result of the collaboration between fishers, scientists and policy makers in the framework provided by GAP2 and GEPETO, we will create a scenario that offers new perspectives for the management.

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