The University of Arizona

The fishing footprint of a tourism-based economy: displacing seafood consumption from local to distant waters in the Balearic Islands

Ivan Murray Mas


Since the Balearics are one of the key tourism destinations in Europe, the tourism industry has entailed a radical transformation of coastal life on the islands. In the 1960s and 1970s, fish captures increased enormously due to the expansion of consumption derived from tourism, and through technological improvements. There has been a change in target species from cheap fish consumed by local people towards expensive species consumed by tourists. However, since the 1980s a combination of factors including the adoption of the EU Common Fisheries Policy, the globalization of trade, and overfishing of some target species has led to a drastic fall in fishing sector jobs, catch reductions, and an increase in cheap imports. This article analyses the transformation of Balearic fisheries combining ecological economics (EE) and political ecology (PE) approaches. Material flow accounting (MFA) and the ecological footprint (EF) are applied in order to conceptualize the biophysical dimension of fisheries in relation to the historical dynamics of capital in the archipelago. Between 1940 and 2012, total fish catches doubled the official landings, while nonreported or hidden catches were underestimated. In the neoliberal period (1990-2012), fish catches decreased and seafood consumption was satisfied mainly through imports, five times the local captures. Thus, the metabolism of fish consumption in the Balearics illustrates the logics of capital and its metabolism in advanced capitalist regions, characterized by the displacement of socio-ecological conflicts to distant waters.

Keywords: Balearic Islands; tourism; fisheries; material flow accounting; ecological footprint.

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