Since last summer, the anchovy population has diminished by 41 per cent
Anchovy quota cut to lowest level in 25 years
Friday, November 02, 2012, 03:00 (GMT + 9)
The government has decided to reduce its commercial fishing quota for anchovy (Engraulis ringens) -- one of the world's richest fisheries -- which is bad shape due to warmer water temperatures and harmful fishing practices. This summer's anchovy season is down by 68 per cent to 810,000 tonnes, making this the smallest allowance in 25 years.
Peru’s new quota is an effort to allow enough anchovy to swim into spawning season, reproduce and maintain the size of the fishery somewhat stable, according to a report by the government marine institute IMARPE.
"Technically, we should have said the quota is zero. That's how bleak the panorama is," Production Minister Gladys Treviño admitted, Reuters reports.
Since last summer, the anchovy population has diminished by 41 per cent -- and it is 28 per cent smaller than the average of the past 12 years, IMARPE informed.
It is possible that the quota for the November 2012 to February 2013 fishing season will push the price of fishmeal higher. Over the past decade fishmeal prices have more than doubled, and then jumped by 20 per cent in the past year, according to data from the World Bank.
If warmer waters reach Peru’s coastline in coming months, as IMARPE has predicted, the government could impose additional cuts, as the anchovy prefers colder waters. Already, three Kelvin waves -- the warm equatorial stretches that span hundreds of miles -- hit Peru's coast between May and September 2012, the institute informed, and it predicts two more by the end of the year.
IMARPE said Peru is experiencing the effects of a mild "El Niño," whose warm waters caused a mass die-off of anchovy earlier this year.
"But we can't just blame what's going on in the environment," said Arturo Gonzales, director of the sustainable fishing advocacy group CeDePesca. "There are a lot of questions about how much this is driven by the industry's discarded catches, and that's something we can control."
IMARPE acknowledged that industrial fishers sometimes discard young fish they catch unintentionally to avoid government fines.
The industry has been getting ready for lower catches and has established a new rule that makes large vessels operate 10 mi from shore. This measure is designed to protect shallow-water spawning and reserves the first 5 mi for smaller fishers and the 5-10 mi zone for medium-sized boats.
According to the National Fishery Society, that would slice Peru's anchovy exports down by about USD 300 million.
Peru is the world's top fishmeal exporter, producing about a third of the world’s supply. It exported more than USD 2 billion in fishmeal and fish oil in 2011.
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By Natalia Real