Photo: Source: FAO Fishstat
The west coast of South America has one of the world’s most productive ocean areas. Landward ocean currents make it a so-called "up-welling" area, i.e. huge amounts of nutrient-rich cold water flow up from the depths to the surface. Here the nutrients become available, and in combination with sunlight they cause rapid growth of algal blooms. The algae provide good growing conditions for small pelagic fish, which are fished in abundance. El Niño reverses the current pattern, weakening the up-welling of nutrient rich water. This in turn leads to reduced algal growth and smaller stocks of fish that graze on them.
Peru is the dominant fisheries nation in the area, with Chile in a good second place. In good years the fishing of anchoveta (Engraulis ringens) accounts for around 10 per cent of the world’s total catch volume. Peru is dominant in the fishing of this species. In addition, Peru accounts for the largest harvest of sardines (Sardinesops sagax) in the area, while Chile traditionally has fished most of the mackerel species jack mackerel (Trachurus murphyi). All three species are used to produce fishmeal and oil. In 2001, the pelagic fisheries in the Southeast Pacific (FAO area no. 87) were described as fully taxed (WRI), and it is consequently not probable that the harvesting of fish can increase without adverse effects on the stocks of pelagic fish and the ecosystem as a whole (Cury, P. et al., 2000).
Peru is the world’s largest producer of fishmeal and fish oil, most of which is exported. In 2006, Peru produced 1.3 million tonnes of fishmeal and 578,000 tonnes of fish oil. Chile, the world’s second largest producer, previously exported the vast majority of its production of fishmeal and oil, but the country’s intense focus on fish farming has changed this. In 2006, Chile produced 665.000 tonnes of fishmeal and 180.000 tonnes of fish oil. Chile also imported 75.000 tonnes of fish oil i 2006.
Regulation of fishing in South America
Fisheries management along the coast of Chile and Peru is mainly based on restrictions on fishing in certain geographic areas and to periods of fishing activities. There is no TAC (Total Allowable Catch), as we are used to in our waters. When the fish stocks show signs of decline, fishing bans are introduced. In Peru, all fishing boats are now equipped with a satellite tracking system that provides the authorities an opportunity to continually monitor the position of the boats. Furthermore, the authorities in Peru have introduced fishing moratoriums in February-March and August-October to protect growth in recruitment and spawning stocks of anchoveta and sardines.
In Chile the authorities have introduced maximum quotas for the annual catch of each fishing company. In the northern part of Chile there is a fishing moratorium on anchoveta and sardines in August-September to protect the spawning stocks. Furthermore, they have stopping fishing for anchoveta in December-February. In the central and southernmost part of Chile, fishing for anchoveta and sardines is shut down during spawning, which usually takes place in July-August and during the period from mid-December to mid-January. For Chilean mackerel a fishing moratorium is put into effect in periods when many small fish are recorded in the landings. Like the system in Peru, all large Chilean fishing vessels are equipped with a satellite tracking system. This makes it possible for the authorities to monitor the position of the boats and prevent fishing activities in areas closed to fishing. Both countries have begun programmes to measure the stocks of their most important species of fish.
Since the industrialisation of fishing in South America, the three species anchoveta (Engraulis ringens), sardines (Sardinesops sagax) and Chilean jack mackerel (Trachurus murphyi) have been under severe pressure. Varying climatic conditions and fishing activities have at times led to collapse of the stocks. The largest fishing nations, Peru and Chile, have introduced restrictions in fishing, and control has improved. The fish stocks are fully taxed. An increase in harvesting will not be sustainable and will in the long term lead to lower catch volume.
Anchoveta – Engraulis ringens
Photo: Source: FAO FishstatFishing of this mackerel species is led by Chile, which landed over 1.3 million tonnes in 2000. Peru and China landed 277,000 and 160,000 tonnes, respectively. From 1995’s record catch of 5 million tonnes the catch fell to around 1.8 million in 2006.This species is primarily used for consumption, but some is also used in the production of fish meal and oil.