Peru slashed its commercial fishing quota as warmer water temperatures and controversial practices deplete stocks of anchovy in one of the world’s richest fisheries. The government cut its quota for this summer’s anchovy season by 68% to 810.000 tons, the smallest allowance in 25 years.
Anchovy is rarely eaten fresh, but is instead dried, ground up and exported as a protein-rich feed for livestock and farmed fish.
The stricter quota will allow just enough anchovy to swim into spawning season, reproduce, and keep the size of the fishery more or less 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 Trevino told reporters this week in Lima.
The anchovy population has shrunk 41% since last summer and is 28% smaller than the average of the past 12 years, IMARPE says.
The quota for the November to February fishing season could push the price of fish meal up even further. The price of the commodity has more than doubled over the past decade, and rose some 20% in the past year, according to data from the World Bank.
Peru is the world’s top fish meal exporter, producing about a third of worldwide supply and last year it shipped abroad more than 2 billion dollars in fish meal and fish oil.
The anchovy pulled from Peru’s Pacific Ocean is sold as fish meal that feeds pigs in China and farmed salmon in Europe. It’s also squeezed into increasingly popular Omega-3 supplements.
The government could impose additional restrictions if the warmer waters that IMARPE predicts reach Peru in coming months.
Anchovy prefer the cold waters of the nutrient-rich Humboldt Current, which is home to a fifth of the world’s fish stocks and flows northward from Chile to Peru.
The regulation, designed to protect shallow-water spawning, reserves the first eight kilometres from the coast for smaller fishermen and the eight-to-16-kilometres zone for medium-sized boats.