Spain was Western Europe's leading fishing nation, and it had the world's fourth largest fishing fleet. Spaniards ate more fish per capita than any other European people, except the Scandinavians. In the mid-1980s, Spain's fishing catch averaged about 1.3 million tons a year, and the fishing industry accounted for about 1 percent of GDP. Sardines, mussels, cephalopods, cod, mackerel, and tuna, most of which came from the Atlantic Ocean, were the principal components of the catch.Fishing was particularly important in the economic life of Galicia, the principal fishing ports of which were Vigo and La Coruna on the northwest coast. Also important were Huelva, Cadiz, and Algeciras in the south, and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands.
In the mid-1980s, the fishing fleet numbered between 13,800 and 17,500 vessels, most of which were old and small. Deep-sea vessels numbered about 2,000. Spain's 100,000 fishermen made up one-third of all EC manpower in the fishing sector, and a further 700,000 Spanish jobs depended on fishing. Prior to its admission into the EC, the undisciplined behavior of Spanish fishermen was a constant problem for the government and for other European countries. Spanish vessels were frequently charged with fishing violations in the Atlantic and the North Sea. Entry into the EC brought access to most of its waters, but it also meant catches would be sharply restricted until 1995.
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