Earthquake, then flooding hit Ecuador's shrimp sector, with more rain on the way

Examples of damage to Ecuador's shrimp farming sector.

An earthquake that rocked Ecuador on 18 March has now been followed by several days of extreme rain and flooding that is expected to continue for several days, affecting the country’s multibillion-dollar shrimp sector.

The quake, which measured 6.5 on the Richter scale, caused the partial collapse of shrimp farms walls in the Bravito, Estero Huaylá, and Puerto Bolívar sectors, located in El Oro province. Ecuador’s National Chamber of Aquaculture (CNA) estimated damages in excess of USD 10 million (EUR 9.3 million). There were no casualties directly linked to the shrimp sector; However, national authorities reported 13 fatalities and more than 400 injuries across the country.

Torrential downpours began shortly after the quake, causing significant flooding and washing out bridges in El Oro and the neighboring province of Guayas, also home to large-scale shrimp-farming operations and Ecuador’s main port city of Guayaquil. The heavy rainfall shows no sign of letting up, according to the country’s national meteorological and hydrological institute, INAMHI. 

“From the last days of March and during April 2023, an increase is expected in the frequency and intensity of rainfall in a large part of the nation, especially in the coastal region,” it said in a release. “There may be intense episodes of precipitation that may cause the monthly rainfall values for April 2023 to exceed their historical average.”

The heavy rainfall continued through the end of March, with some coastal areas getting 42 to 80 millimeters of rain per day. The rainfall had deadly consequences, with Al Jazeera reporting landslides that killed at least seven people.

“The expected scenario of rains responds to the persistent and abnormal warming of the sea surface off our coasts and to the unstable atmospheric conditions that favor the occurrence of rains,” INAMHI said.  

Camposano has complained about a lack of government support for the industry and has asked for additional investments in infrastructure and security. Ecuador's shrimp exports reached USD 6.6 billion (EUR 6.1 billion) in 2022, up from USD 5.08 billion (EUR 4.73 billion) in value in 2021 and USD 3.6 billion (EUR 3.3 billion), set in 2020. Ecuadorian shrimp producers also set a new volume record, harvesting 1.3 million metric tons in 2022, up 26 percent from the 843,681 MT of shrimp in 2021 and 675,852 MT in 2020.

Camposano said he expects just a small impact in the flow of shrimp exports from the latest natural disasters, but said the shrimp sector remains vulnerable to ...

Photo courtesy of Ecuador’s National Chamber of Aquaculture

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