Peru anchovy firms concerned over El Niño-driven delays to main fishing season

An anchovy fishing boat in Peru.

Peru’s Production Ministry (PRODUCE) has delayed the launch of the main anchovy fishing season in the country’s north-central zone due to the effects of El Niño.

The situation is causing consternation among industrial fishing fleets that are responsible for the world’s largest anchovy fishery.

“The situation is really complicated. El Niño is already hitting the [northern] Peruvian coast with a 2.5 degrees Celsius [rise] on average. The problem is that anchovy [biomass] remains deeper and closer to the shore, looking for colder temperatures,” Pablo Trapunsky, the CEO of anchoveta fishing and processing firm Pesquera Diamante, told SeafoodSource. “Add to the fact that most of the biomass found is considered juvenile and the result, for now, is a [fishing season] start in mid-June. The quota will be a joke and the catch even worse.”

El Niño has a strong effect on marine life off the Pacific coast. According to information from NOAA, during normal conditions, upwelling brings cold, nutrient-rich water from the depths to the ocean’s surface. However, during El Niño, this upwelling weakens or stops altogether. Without those nutrients, there are fewer phytoplankton – the main diet of many fish, including anchovies. This causes the biomass to look deeper and move to other areas in search of food.

PRODUCE usually opens the fishing season mid-April after confirming optimal biomass conditions. However, PRODUCE Minister Raúl Pérez-Reyes warned that only during the first week of June will he receive the monitoring report from Imarpe a technical agency within the ministry that advises the state on marine conservation issues regarding the anchovy biomass situation.

“We will have the report in the first week [of June] to see how the biomass is, which will allow us to define whether or not there will be a first fishing season of the year,” he said. “The conclusions of the first report were that it was not yet the time to define [a launch date] due to the large number of juveniles. Between the first week and the middle of June, we are going to see if it makes sense to issue the quota.”

Peru divides its anchovy fishing areas into two regions – south and north-central – with different capture limits and seasons set for each. The north-central is Peru’s main fishing region, with capture measuring several times that of the south region.

According to a 27 April release from Imarpe, two anchovy hydroacoustic evaluation cruises launched into Peru’s north-central region 19 February to 24 March and 17 to 21 April. The operations effectively confirmed an increase in sea surface temperature, accentuated during the second half of March and expected to continue through July. The anchovy biomass there concentrated in the first few miles of the coast and deepened, reaching depths of 100 meters in some areas, moving from north to south.

Juveniles measured 82 percent in number and 58 percent in weight; the evaluations also confirmed that summer spawning was less intense than expected for this season, and the somatic condition of the anchovy was lower than average.

The unfavorable results led Imarpe to launch ... 

Photo courtesy of SNP

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