Peruvian anchovy executive warns about problems in country’s south fishing zone

Pesquera Diamante CEO Pablo Trapunsky.

A top executive in Peru’s anchovy sector has warned that the country’s south anchovy-fishing zone is in peril and should be a point of emphasis for the nation’s seafood industry at large when determining the most important issues to address in 2024.

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 zone is Peru’s main fishing region, with capture measuring several times that of the south region. 

Peru’s anchoveta fishery encountered major problems in 2023, with its first fishing season in the north-central zone canceled and its second season closed early due to the sooner-than-expected arrival of the spawning season. The closure of the second season on 12 January left more than 25 percent of the fishery’s quota in the water.

However, according to Pablo Trapunsky, the CEO of Peruvian anchoveta fishing and processing firm Pesquera Diamante, Peruvian fisheries authorities should not overlook the south region fishery.

Trapunsky’s call for emphasis on Peru’s south zone was in response to a compilation of the five main issues Peru’s fishing industry is facing this year, based on a number of opinion pieces by Eduardo Ferreyros – the president of Peru’s National Fisheries Society (SNP) trade group. The list made no mention of the critical situation in the south zone.

“In addition to the list of issues, there is the precarious situation of fishing in the southern area of Peru,” Trapunsky told SeafoodSource. “As with every year, we should be fishing by now in the [Southern Hemisphere’s] summer time. However, the biomass in the south is shared with Chile, and it’s pretty easy to check fishing figures from south Peru and north Chile to discover what’s going on there.”

According to data from Peru’s Production Ministry (PRODUCE) and Chile’s national fishing service Sernapesca, 2009 was the last year that Peru’s southern region surpassed Chile’s northern region in anchovy landings, bringing in 569,000 metric tons (MT) compared to Chile’s 498,000 MT. Every year since then, Chile’s north has outperformed Peru’s south.

The reason, according to Trapunsky, has to do with Peruvian authorities failing to respond effectively to changing environmental conditions.

“Our authorities stick to the so-called ‘legal anchovy size,’ which is a measure dating from 1953 that establishes 12 centimeters as the minimum legal length for anchovy to be caught. This was even before the foundation of Imarpe [the Peruvian Marine Institute – the scientific body used by PRODUCE to define total allowable catches], and even they can’t explain why it was defined that way, since there’s no scientific background for such a limit,” he said. “For a decade now, Imarpe’s reports on anchovy have shown that the anchovy’s sexual maturity varies from 9 to 10.5 centimeters, meaning that at that size, the species has already gone through spawning at least once.”

What makes the 12-centimeter target even more difficult for fishers is the fact that, according to Imarpe, anchovies are smaller on average than they used to be due to a change in diet, with more of a concentration on eating phytoplankton over the zooplankton they previously consumed predominantly.

“The small size and low fat content in the anchovy has to do with the food it finds in the ocean. It’s not the quantity but the type of food that impacts the growth,” Trapunsky said.

Trapunsky said Peru's government should ... 

Photo courtesy of LinkedIn/Pablo Trapunsky

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