The Transition of a Producer’s Group into The Association of Fish Producers (OPP): From its beginnings in 1989 to the Present Day
The Carril shellfish growers represent the vast majority of the 650 shellfish-farming families that culture mollusks in the 1,283 plots of land in the Arousa Estuary. Approximately twenty farmers from the shellfish growing organization established this non-profit association on November 13, 1989. It was founded with the primary intent to manage, protect, and coordinate the shared interests of its constituents. At that time, their objective was to create a system that would allow them to open up new perspectives for the sector’s future and take on new challenges as part of their evolution, as it had been happening over the years.
The beginnings were challenging. The reduced number of members made the association vulnerable to being subject to the interests already established in the industry. Three presidents served as its representatives over the first two years. From those, only the first one finished his term, while the following two resigned. After this, the growers decided to defend the group above all else. The group’s fourth president, Mr. José Luis Villanueva Vicente, has served the association members for more than 30 years and still represents the interests of 650 Carril shellfish-growing families. Even though their path was full of challenges, they kept moving forward with determination and courage since their goals were always remarkably clear.
They overcame obstacles such as floods that forced them to restart each season after the completely or partially losing their cultures and harvest. On top of that, the struggle for the final concessions, which lasted more than thirty years, caused inequality regarding other productive sectors and comparative grievances by preventing them from receiving official funds that would have allowed them to develop more quickly, effectively, and in accordance with the times. Further complicating their struggle for verified traceability was their battle against poaching and unfair competition.
The Carril shellfish-growing organization has evolved over the past 20 years, improving its understanding of the marine environment through studies and incorporating the selected high-quality aggregates and seeds into its mollusk culture farms. Additionally, they have overcome one of its biggest hurdles, growing clams that stand out for their high meat yield, texture, and flavor.
Currently, the primary goal is to reach the consumer, spreading the knowledge of the effort of more than 650 families, who have dedicated every day to taking care of a product unique to the Carril waters in the Arousa Estuary and stands out for its superior quality and guaranteed its full traceability. As a result, on August 1, 2019, the «Carril Clam of the Carril Shellfish Growers» trademark was established. By registering this trademark, they protect the Carril clam’s original identity from imitations entering the market and taking its place, and this seal also ensures the ultimate customer that the eating product is the authentic Carril clam.
Carril Shellfish Growers offer the following services to its associates: advice, tax and labor management, administrative procedures related to the activity, procurement of seed (for clam culture), aggregate contributions, topographic measurements, and beaconing, among others.
Besides having the trademark «Carril Clam of the Carril Shellfish Growers,» with which they advertise their clams’ numerous nutritional benefits as well as high-yield meat, texture, and their own unique flavor, giving them recognition and gastronomic value, the organization has also been successful in having their Clam Fest of Carril acknowledged as a tourist attraction in Galicia. Additionally, they belong to the Galicia Food Cluster, the Federation of Gastronomic Brotherhoods (FECOGA), the Order of the Carril Clam, the Spanish Federation of Wine and Gastronomic Brotherhoods (FECOES), and the European Council of Enogastronomic Brotherhoods (CEUCO).
It is worth mentioning that the organization has also been a member of the Spanish Technological Platform for Fisheries and Aquaculture (PETPA) since April 2022. This non-profit association aims to promote technological development and innovation in the fisheries and aquaculture sector, including the processing and marketing of its products.
Carril Shellfish Growers are financed through a collaboration agreement with the Fishermen’s Brotherhood Saint James Apostle of Carril, signed on June 1, 2006, and amended on May 7, 2021, to adapt it to the requirements of the regulations for the recognition of ASSOCIATION OF FISH PRODUCERS (OPP). As a consequence of this agreement, Carril OPP89 Shellfish Producers start collecting a membership fee at the beginning of October 2021, equivalent to 2% of the economic proceeds from the auctions held in the Carril fish market, which corresponds to the shellfish growers-suppliers associated with this company, and to whom a membership fee is applied since that date and due to the official recognition of the Organization (OPP89).
Transformation in the Carril OPP89 Shellfish Producers
After two years of arduous work, the Carril shellfish growers became the first organization of aquaculture producers in Galicia in October 2021. This recognition entitles them to access European aid funds, creating new opportunities and giving them the operational power to pursue and develop studies and projects previously out of their financial reach.
These new initiatives have been and continue to be centered on environmental monitoring studies, increasing production capacity, and overseeing the quality of the marine environment to achieve further goals. Additionally, it facilitates the innovation of new technologies, product traceability and promotion development, and research on predator control.