Veta la Palma is an aquaculture farm located on an island in the Guadalquivir river, 10 miles (16 km) inland from the Atlantic Ocean in Seville province of Spain. It produces 1,200 tons of sea bass, bream, red mullet and shrimp each year. Given its 32 km^2 area this gives a yearly yield of 37 tons per square kilometer. Yet unlike most of the world's fish farms, it does so not by interfering with nature, but by improving upon it.
Veta la Palma is also the largest and most important[who?] privately owned bird sanctuary in the world because of the 250 different species of birds feeding on the fishes of the farm. This farm is owned by food majors Hisparroz. Hisparroz president, Luis Contreras says "We call it the pata negra of sea bass."
Isla Mayor, as the nerve centre of the marshlands on the Guadalquivir, has seen a long process of transformation over time due to both the natural evolution caused by silting and the effects of human activity. The first attempts to exploit the resources of the Isla Mayor date back to the 19th century, but it was not till the third decade of the 20th century that farming really began in the area, thanks to a comprehensive project carried between 1926 and 1928 by the British company Islas del Rio Guadalquivir Limited.
During the 1940s and 50s, the cultivation of rice became the main economic activity on the Isla Mayor del Guadalquivir, with rice fields occupying the northern half of the island (35,000 acres). In the southern part, however, extensive livestock farming in the fields owned by the Veta La Palma estate was the main activity until the end of the 1970s. In 1982, the Empresa Agropecuaria del Guadalquivir, owner of the estate since 1966, was acquired by the Hisparroz, S.A. group, which transformed it into Pesquerias Isla Mayor, S.A. (PIMSA).
After a brief introductory period, in 1990 PIMSA was authorised by General Directorate for Fisheries of the Andalusian Regional Government, following the Rector Plan for the Use and Management of the Doñana National Park (PRUG), to introduce fish farming to the area. Initially using 1,500 acres of the estate, the project was gradually extended to reach 8,000 acres. These are flooded with high quality waters which provide a habitat to the significant population of fish and crustaceans which reared on the farm. A further 8,000 acres are currently dedicated to the dry crops and 1,000 acres to the cultivation of rice. The remaining 12,000 acres are maintained to preserved the original biotope of the marshlands.
Aquaculture practiced in this farm supports a set of environmental services for hydrology and ecology of the marshlands of the Guadalquivir. Extensive and semi-extensive aquaculture has attracted a range of nesting and migratory species of birds. The total bird population of Veta la Palma can reach a figure of 600,000 covering some 250 different species, of which some 50 suffer some degree of threat in other ares. As such the artificial wetland habitat created on the estate plays an essential part in the conservation of European birds by guaranteeing food both for species which complete their development cycle from birth on the island before migrating and those which, during the course of migration between Africa and Europe stay on the area temporarily to find food.
This extensive farm is profitable by selling very high quality foods at high prices. To comprehend the annual output of 37 tons per km^2 it can be compared to the food(not fish) consumption of an average American, which is roughly 750kg per year.
- http://www.vetalapalma.es Veta La Palma Website
- http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/dan_barber_how_i_fell_in_love_with_a_fish.html Dan Barber: How I fell in love with a fish
- http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1902751,00.html "Sustainable Aquaculture: Net Profits" - Time Magazine
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