Peru ends anchovy fishing season in north-central region

Peru’s Ministry of Production (PRODUCE) has declared a premature close to the anchovy fishing season in the country’s north-central region due to the presence of a high number of juveniles in the area, according to a report in official gazette El Peruano.

Peru’s Sea Institute (Imarpe), a specialized technical agency of PRODUCE which advises the state on marine conservation issues, conducted a biological-fishery expedition survey of anchovy in the area between Chicama and Ilo, and confirmed that a large concentration of juveniles persists in the area studied, reaching 97.8 percent in number and 78.9 percent in weight, according to the report.

On 21 December, the authorities put an indefinite halt to anchovy fishing in the area up to 30 miles out from the coast between Trujillo and Nazca, pending the results of the Imarpe study.

The latest move is a blow to Peru’s anchovy fishing firms, which had expressed satisfaction at the higher capture limit of 2.7 million metric tons (MT) for this season, which began 16 November. At the time, it was seen as a sign of recovery for anchovy fishing in Peru. While 2018 was considered “very good” by industry players, previous years saw lower catch limits and subpar fishing production. 

However, following the kickoff of the most recent center-north fishing season, Pablo Trapunsky, the CEO of anchovy-fishing firm Pesquera Diamante, said in an interview with SeafoodSource that the country's fleet may have difficulty fulfilling the large quota assigned.

“The actual catches – the real activity that happens on the sea – doesn’t always go as expected. The Imarpe inspection cruise was done in September and October, we’re now in November. Things move, the ocean is dynamic and so are the fish. We’re facing a different situation than that found by the Imarpe investigation crew,” he said at the time. “Roughly 90 percent of all the fishing fleet is operating in the same area in the north of Peru, and so far this has been the only area [for catchment] since the beginning of the season. The average catch per day for the whole fishing fleet has not met expectations. So it’s complicated.”

Rodolfo Cornejo, the scientist in charge of the survey expedition, said that climactic conditions may have dispersed adult anchovy schools to deeper areas as they search for colder waters near their preferred temperature range of between 14 and 19 degrees Celsius. In contrast, juvenile anchovies are suspected to have traveled toward Peru’s coastline, where the bulk of the country’s fishing fleet operates.

In the meantime, witnessing  the high amount of juvenile anchovies in their catchments, several hundred fishermen in the north of Peru have been protesting against what they see as PRODUCE’s failure to protect the country’s anchovy resources, according to local press reports. They had called for a permanent close to the fishing season since late December, marching in Chimbote, Barranca, Huacho, Ilo and Piura, cutting off access to the Panamerican highway, refusing to go to sea to fish and calling for PRODUCE Minister Rocío Barrios Alvarado to step down.

PRODUCE’s latest move to close the season confirms what sector observers had feared, that many of the fish caught were simply too small, measuring 10 centimeters or less, when the permissible size for fishing is 12 centimeters.

Peru’s fishing areas are divided in two: the south region and the north-central region, and each have different fishing seasons and capture limits. The south region’s second anchovy fishing season was launched 6 August and ran through December, for which PRODUCE established a capture limit of 540,000 MT.

Given the lackluster performance of the north-central region, Peru’s anchovy fishing firms have now set their hopes on a bigger season in the south region. However, catch limits set for the south are traditionally lower than those established for the north-central region.

Further, “the south shows same situation as well [in terms of high levels of juveniles] and so far no quota has been allocated,” Trapunsky told SeafoodSource.

The Pesquera Diamante executive had previously mentioned “interesting opportunities” for sector consolidation, but he refrained from commenting when asked by SeafoodSource about those opportunities, given the hardships the sector is now facing.

Photo courtesy of Sociedad Nacional de Pesquería


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