Jan 15 2011

Fish Farm – sustainable – aquaculture – Spain

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Ecoagriculture – Biodiversity-friendly aquaculture on the Veta la Palma Estate, Spain
The environmental impact and sustainability of intensive aquaculture operations has become a conservation concern. Here’s a fish farm that avoids the negative impacts from feed lot operations and it enhances the environment – Veta la Palma Estate at Isla Mayor, municipality of Puebla del Rio near Sevilla, Spain. PIMSA is part of Grupo Hisparroz, a leading rice production company.

Without negatively affecting the natural environment, without jeopardizing the ecosystem’s resilience, Veta La Palma’s farming practice leads to holistic productivity gains – taking into account ecosystem services beyond ‘provisioning’, such as enhanced landscape and biodiversity value.



Healthy fish are kept at a relatively low density of about 4 kg of fish to every 1 cu m of water.  These fish are harvested at 1 kg each,  whereas fish farm feed lots with crowded conditions, harvest on average at 250 grams.  Birds are a welcome part of the farm, consuming about 20% of total production. The company is ok with that – it supports the area’s biodiversity.

The 28,000 acre Estate includes the Doñana Nature Reserve. It’s an important habitat for bird populations, including rare and endangered species. It’s a designated Natura 2000 Network, and a RAMSAR wetland site of international importance.



When PIMSA purchased in the Nature Reserve it knew about the conservation objectives. The company owners developed an extensive close-to-nature aquaculture farm in a former wetland area. They created economic value from land use and improved the areas ecology.  Wetlands that were lost to natural siltation and engineered drainage once again share water from the estuary.  PIMSA’s polyculture fish farm complies with the Reserve’s management plan.

They don’t go out to catch wild fish to make fish feed.  PIMSA’s farmed fish feed on microalgae and shrimp that reach the ponds from the estuary through the channel system.

The company improved the ponds’ by creating more than 100 islands for nesting waterfowl and re-vegetating 93 miles of banks.  They created two bird sanctuaries on 1250 acres in the northern sector of the estate. 50 species became 250 and now up to 600,000 birds visit or breed on the estate’s wetlands and benefit from the ample food supply..

Almost 8000 acres of permanently flooded aquaculture marshland play an important role as a refuge for the natural fish fauna of the Guadalquivir river estuary, including for several endangered species. The business is economically successful with 100 farm workers from the small town Isla Mayor and surrounding villages. They sell 1500 tons of fish a year.  Sea bass, sea bream, meagre, mullets, sole, European eel, and ditch shrimp.

Veta la Palma has an extensive horse and cattle operation for organic beef and grows some dry-farmed crops.  With 6000 acres in production of feed for livestock,  a rotation system without fertilizers or pesticides benefits steppe birds.  Another 1,000 acres cultivate rice. The remaining 12,000 acres are set aside as a conservation area.

Check out the Links:

And for a great video – watch Ted

October 2010
Prepared by Karin Svadlenak-Gomez. For more information see:
Abend, L. 2009. Sustainable aquaculture: net profits. Time. http://bit.ly/3wWq1e [accessed 25 October 2010]
FAO. Sustainable aquaculture development. http://bit.ly/dkc8Qi [accessed 25 October 2010]
Medialdea, J.M. 2008. A new approach to ecological sustainability through extensive aquaculture: the model of Veta la Palma. http://bit.ly/aG1LMG [accessed 25 October 2010]

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