Lingering El Niño stoking seafood industry fears across Latin America

Salmon farmers at a workshop held by Sernapesca to discuss the consequences of El Niño.

The El Niño weather pattern that has affected the fishing sectors of Peru and other Latin American countries this year may be sticking around longer than anticipated, a potential outcome that is alarming the region’s fishers and aquaculture farmers.

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the ongoing El Niño event – a climate pattern that causes ocean surface warming in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean regions – is expected to now last until at least April 2024.

The warming pattern developed rapidly during July and August of this year, reaching moderate strength by September. The WMO said it is expected to peak in November to January 2024,, with a 90 percent probability it will continue throughout the upcoming Southern Hemisphere summer.

The Guayaquil, Ecuador-based International Center for Research on the El Niño Phenomenon (CIIFEN) reported that in October, the Central Pacific warmed more than normal up to about 250 meters deep, while the Western Pacific was colder than normal at depths between 100 and 250 meters, signaling the beginning of the El Niño maturation stage.

“CIIFEN reiterates the invitation to strengthen activities that tend to reduce vulnerability, as well as strengthen risk management plans in this new stage of El Niño,” the center stated.

Governments and fishery authorities throughout Latin America have taken heed.

According to Ecuador’s National Chamber of Aquaculture (CNA), more than 50 percent of the country’s shrimp farms are in flood-prone areas, and the CNA’s Environment Directorate estimates that around 110,000 hectares are at imminent risk due to El Niño.

The chamber based its estimate on information from ERFÉN, the organization in charge of studying the El Niño phenomenon in Ecuador, which obtained the results from a scientific research voyage, where the Ecuadorian Navy vessel Orión collected data at 57 stations around the continent’s waters.

To mitigate the impact of this climatic event, the CNA ... 

Photo courtesy of Sernapesca

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