Sustainability is fashion word in Peruvian fishing and aquaculture industry.

End 2016 Oannes Report

Autor: Francisco J. Miranda Avalos President of NGO OANNES

domingo 25 de diciembre de 2016

* Translation. Javier Castagetto Natters & Francisco J. Miranda Avalos

The bad years that can bring out either the best or worst in you.


2016 was a very hard year for the Peruvian Direct Human Consumption Fisheries, but at the same time it could well be a look into the future of aquaculture development in the country. This is a country that has one of the most important fisheries worldwide.


Obviously the Peruvian fisheries and aquaculture sector is a very complex one, even more than others around the world…and let me tell you, some of the others are really complicated! Peru has a very important fishery, great fish stocks and an extraordinary biodiversity, not only in the oceans but also within its continental territory.


Some people around the world just don’t know about the incredible geography and the numbers that Peru holds; more than 3,000 km of coastline, a territory of 1’285,216,20 km2 that encompasses high Andean mountains as well as the Amazon jungle (the Amazon river is born in the Peruvian Andes). In 2015 the population was estimated to reach 31’151,643 and the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) for this closing year is estimated to reach US$ 414’389,000 millions.


But those numbers don’t say it all, and we will not be using them to demonstrate the Peruvian aquaculture and fisheries potential. In recent years there has been changes that do not reflect these numbers, they have been obvious but silent ones that are mainly happening in the manner Peruvian seamen think; you can see it in business men, within those in the new administration, in the fishermen themselves and within the academic and scientific community related to the Peruvian fisheries and aquaculture sector. Only one phrase is constantly overheard and repeated in meeting and gatherings: Control and Sustainability.


How was the Peruvian fisheries industry able to make the phrase “Controls and Sustainability” fashionable? It was not easy for sure. To achieve this it was necessary to reach a consensus, and this was a very special situation amongst actors consciousness.


A consensus situation doesn’t imply an active consent of each individual actor, but an acceptance in the sense of non-negation. This decision making scheme is based under the antique Greek democracy model. It’s a democratic variable employed to establish a north and to rule in that direction the destiny of a complex industry that has a fantastic potential into the future.


Many individuals have worked at this for many years to reach a point in time that is very special for the Peruvian fishery and aquaculture industry. More than two thousand individuals, amongst fisheries professionals, lawyers, fishermen, students, higher education teachers, government officials, business associations and universities have been involved. OANNES, a Peruvian NGO had an idea, and numerous organizations supported this idea and helped OANNES make it become a reality. This idea was a book titled “Organized Dialogue for Development, the Peruvian experience in fishing and aquaculture”. The first edition of 2,000 books was distributed for free amongst all interested parties, which included the President of Peru, all main authorities, scientists and also those universities that offer a program of studies in fisheries, aquaculture or ocean related sciences.

NGO OANNES is a twenty years old non-profit Peruvian organization, which is dedicated to promoting development through dialogue, specially in coastal development. ONG OANNES has consolidated a large database through its mailing list “Lista Oannes”, active since 1996, and with more than 15,000 members in which the majority of them are related somehow with the fisheries or aquaculture industry in Peru or worldwide. Since its beginnings the mailing list has built a relationship based on an open dialogue, promoting information sharing and exchange amongst all its members on maritime related subjects, thus raising awareness concerning the fisheries and aquaculture situation worldwide and allowing for its members to understand and compare the local situation versus that of industries in other countries.


In 2012 NGO OANNES, along with the great effort made during the first phase of the Bi-National Proyect GEF Humboldt (Peru – Chile) which seeks leveling the management policies of the cold water current that both countries share; it started an “Organized Dialogue” scheme which directly involves all interested parties by creating workgroups or workshops. During 2013 it carried out a trip along the entire Peruvian coastline to identify the main industry participants and their problems.Then in 2014, with the collaboration from the National University Del Santa, it carried out three introductory workshops that helped develop the workflow. To prove the method, two additional workshops took place; the first one at the Fisheries Engineering faculty of the National University of Piura and the second one at the Fisheries Engineering faculty of the National University of Moquegua.


In 2015 NGO OANNES was sure that Peruvian universities could behave like “San Martin de Porres”, the Peruvian saint that was able to make a dog, a cat and a mouse share the same plate of food at the same time. So it went ahead and carried out fourteen workshops with the collaboration of sixteen Peruvian universities. In this workshops dialogue took place region by region, particular problems of each one where identified, solutions to them where proposed and individual responsibilities where identified.


All the compiled information from these workshops can be found in our book, which is already available in a digital version through (currently only in Spanish) at / Dp / B01DSL1J0C. NGO OANNES is currently seeking collaborators to publish the English version in 2017.


The book “Organized Dialog for the Development, the Peruvian Experience in Fishing and Aquaculture” unveils the great connection between the Peruvian fishmeal and fish oil industries with the future of Peruvian aquaculture. This is important because Peru is one of the biggest producers of fishmeal, which is the raw material that is fundamental in the worldwide manufacturing of feed for various carnivorous and omnivorous marine animals. The book also provides us important information; with more than a US$2,000 millions annual production of fishmeal and fish oil for export Peru feeds a worldwide aquaculture industry that is ten times bigger. So the question is; what would happen if Peruvian’s could develop the appropriate conditions to utilize al of this raw material in the development of its own aquaculture industry, in its ocean, in the mountains and in the Amazon jungle? The extraordinary and categorical answer was; Peru would be able to provide high quality protein nourishment worldwide, and do it in a sustainable way.


This will not be achieved solely by consensus. In the next years, Peru needs to establish the sustainability of its fisheries and aquaculture stocks as a political objective. “Political decision” is a must, along with specific actions that invoke a strict control of its main resource, the Anchoveta, to guarantee that it can be harvest in a sustainable manner. If the Anchoveta stock is not sustainable, the whole house of card will crumble and fall, and the promising great future of the Peruvian aquaculture will only remain a dream.


As a mater of fact, the president of the National Fisheries Society (SNP), Elena Conterno, confirmed the fishing industry´s commitment to the sustainability of the Anchoveta, when she declared to the press that ,"A responsible management of the product will allow the sector to remain stable".


The Peruvian seas as well as the entire Pacific Ocean have suffered severe oceanographic changes in the past years. Scientists of the Peruvian Sea Institute (IMARPE) have established that we are approaching a period of colder temperatures in which, slowly but gradually, the colder water temperatures of the Peruvian current will get closer to shore, displacing warmer waters that have been present during the past few years (this warmer waters have a different chemical composition and hold a another type of biodiversity).


The giant squid and the Mahi Mahi, two of Peru’s most important fisheries, have moved far offshore during this past season. These industries are handled by the artisanal fishermen, with boats that have a capacity of no more than 10 MT of capacity each. With these oceanographic changes that are taking place, the giant squid and the Mahi Mahi will be too far offshore and out of reach of the artisanal fishermen’s fleet. Even the international fleet that captures giant squid (mainly the Chinese fleet) have run into problems since April of 2016, when they had to move 400 miles west off the coast of Peru to find stock, as reported by their shipping agents. And even then the results have not been that great. This resource seems to have moved way far offshore for all fleets. The same is happening in the Mahi Mahi industry, one in which Peru is now the main provider worldwide.


The key for sustainability is control. As a matter of fact many foreign vessels, mainly from Asia (China, Korea and Taiwan), have been fishing for giant squid near the two hundred mile marker, which delimits the Peruvian sovereignty zone and have created big problems for the frozen giant squid industry, an industry that has been recently established because the most important market is Asia. As a matter of fact, the president of the Direct Human Consumption committee from the Industries National Society, Mr Alfonso Miranda Eyzaguirre, which gathers all frozen fish and seafood groups, constantly claims that the government should perform a better control of the foreign fleet.


Obviously claims of control are not only for the foreign fleet that is not allowed to fish inside the Peruvian zone. The main problem is the local artisan fleet, which is too big and is growing out of control. Nowadays, in Peru, a new ship cannot be built unless it is going to substitute another one that is going to be decommissioned, and the hold size must be the same or the sum of the hold capacity that will be substituted. But controlling this regulation is not being done effectively. Those involved coincide that Peruvian Navy, who is in charge and responsible to carry out this control, is not fulfilling its obligation. The navy’s answer is that the responsibility isn’t only theirs; lack of fuel for their vessels, logistic means and greater collaboration from other authorities and agencies such as regional, municipal and the prosecutor’s office is much needed.


But, why was 2016 a bad year for the direct human consumption fisheries, but at the same time probably a very important one in the history of the Peruvian fisheries and aquaculture sectors?


Peruvian fisheries is not only compromised of Anchoveta, giant squid, Mahi Mahi, eel, mackerel, jack mackerel, tuna, skipjack, swordfish, Patagonian tooth fish, king crab, smelt, sharks and many other native fish of the coastal zone. Certainly the Anchoveta´s fishery is the most important one as it produces and exports US$2,000 millions annually, but other fisheries are rising very fast. Not long ago Anchoveta fishery’s cut was 98% of all the Peruvian fisheries and aquaculture industry, nowadays is more like only 70% of it.


This decline was mainly due to a fashionable statement from fifteen years ago; “Direct human consumption”. Thanks to this statement the Peruvian industry rediscovered canned Anchoveta, and the entire frozen fish and seafood industry, based on other fisheries other than that of the Anchoveta, started growing more and more till today. A phrase that was came out of consensus, also.


Amongst the principal actors of the Peruvian fishing and aquaculture industry, consensus does exist on what are the main barriers that impede its development; constant changes of authorities, demoting the Fishing Ministry to a Fishing Vice-Ministry under supervision by the Production Ministry and loosing sight of past history of the Peruvian fishing industry so as to learn from its past mistakes and successes, is all just a reflection of the low consideration granted to this industry in the past by previous governments.


The fishing industry is a very complex one with many problems, and the government has approached this erroneously by appointing officials with now or very little experience or knowledge of how this industry operates and needs. Peruvian fishermen have always said that the Production Ministry, along with the Fishing and Aquaculture Vice-Ministry, are nothing else than schools in which different professionals from not related specialties are appointed and learn the ropes of the industry while in office, only to be replaced once they become proficient at it, and this seems to happen over and over again. The fishing and aquaculture industry does not have a clear north and Politian’s don’t seem to understand this.


The current Production Ministry, Mr Bruno Giuffra, doesn’t come from the fishing industry. He’s an economist and related to the communications sector. He conducted an interview TV show in Lima mainly oriented towards the business community. He has been on office for six months now in which he has shown great disposition to learn and listen. Those involved with this sector believe he has good intentions, but some doubts still persist. They want to “see” real changes take place in the field and that those “intentions” are just not left at that. Mr Giuffra said it himself, “The Peruvian fisheries is not a problem, but a real great opportunity”.


Mr. Héctor Soldi is the Fishing and Aquaculture Vice-Ministry, and an old fox in this industry. He’s a retired Navy Admiral with a professional history closely related to the marine sciences. He was the captain in charge of the main research vessel BIC Humboldt and president of the Peruvian Sea Institute (IMARPE). Mr Soldi understands the Peruvian fishing and aquaculture industry and has shown a great disposition for dialogue amongst all those involved in it.


The Peruvian aquaculture sector has great potential, but the law that dictated promotional measures ended two years ago and it needs to be renovated. This new government needs to take action, but it seems to be more involved in resolving bureaucratic matters left behind from the previous administration. The industry feels that the actual administration response is yet too slow; in an industry such as this that has great variability, it’s a must that swift decisions must be made.


In Peru the shrimp production, along with that of the scallop and trout, are the most important ones in the aquaculture industry, but the tilapia’s share is growing in the local and international markets. Some other aquaculture products, such as that of the Paiche, Paco y Gamitana, which are representative species from the Amazon jungle, must be looked into with special interest for their market value and production knowhow. The IMARPE and FONDEPES (National Fund for the Fisheries Development) have developed some serious mariculture studies for the Chita and Flounder (two native coastal fish species), and their industrial development is very real and interesting.


Flounder is considered a very important fish in the local market and along with other similar species of white fillet fish are widely used for preparing a very popular local dish called ceviche. An important NGO CeDePesca and the SNP (National Fisheries Society) are working together towards the sustainability of the “Ceviche Fisheries”. An important concept now that Peruvian cuisine is very fashionable in the international gastronomic world.


The scallop aquaculture, the most important one in Peru, is under severe crisis. Even though it has good perspectives for the future, but it depends on the level of understanding of this industry the Peruvian government shows. There are two main aquaculture industries that harvest scallop in Peru: the formal businesses that have production schedules, hatcheries and suspended crops, and the artisanal or small producers that have no formal business, no incubators, no technology and they simply grow and harvest from the seabed in areas delimited by geographical coordinates demarked with buoys.


Before the oceanographic changes took place, this industry alone produced more than US$100 million in scallop exports to Europe. Now that the ocean conditions have changed the artisanal and small producers are suffering the consequences and are being driven out of business. Why?


Because the scallop is not going through a natural and normal reproduction cycle, so there are no scallop seeds. In the meantime the formal companies are happy, because they have the technology and hatcheries to keep them in business and being that production has decreased in general, they can supply the markets at a higher price with better profit margins.


A very interesting case that will help to better illustrate the scenario and changes that have taken place, is that of the Sechura Bay. Local artisan fishermen have no seeds coming from natural seed banks, no hatcheries and most of them aren’t even formal businesses. In the beginning there was a bonanza because they had plenty of natural seeds and thus had huge harvests that provided for great income.


Unfortunately they misspend all this income in financing a mayor league soccer team. Locals claim that they got to generate income for US$11 million, just with a contribution of about US$0.30 for every eight dozens scallops. Scallops that where harvested from their breeding grounds with no technology.

A hatchery that produces 10 million scallop seeds, represents an investment of around US$1.5 or 2 millions. With all the money they made, and that was misspend on this soccer team, they could’ve built and implemented 4 or 5 incubators or hatcheries. This effort would’ve placed them alongside the rest of the industry and would be thriving today. The scallop’s aquaculture industry is a blessing for Peru and its coastal population, because scallops don’t require external feeding as they feed themselves with the marine phytoplankton. They only need nurturing to safeguard their growth.

The Peruvian authorities granted aquaculture concessions in the Sechura bay, to many artisanal aquaculture associations. During the good years it was easy to sow the scallop seed off natural banks and then take care of its growth in the seabed corrals that every association owned. But it’s evident that today, if they want to stay in business, they must invest money because nature is not providing them for free anymore. Technology is a must so that they can increase their production and keep making money.

Maybe they have learned their lesson. People in Sechura want more. They have tasted success once and they want to try it again. They are seeking consulters that can help design sustainable projects, and of course they cannot do this without government aid. Can the government help this people? The answer is yes!


There are some interesting propositions, for example; AQUACENTER, a local private consulting company managed by aquaculture biologist Milthon Lujan Monja, borrowed from another countries the idea of “Aquatic Parks” because he considered it an appropriate one for the Sechura bay. The concept of “Aquatic Parks” is centered on this new tendency that congregates all the requirements of a vast aquaculture industry in one central core that covers all the services and logistics that the producer needs. The first phase of implementation requires an investment of US$10 million. “Aquatic Parks” can also have hatcheries.


But, how can Peru finance the future of its aquaculture industry? Does it have the money to invest in it? The answer is yes. It’s not like everything that the government has done in the past was bad, since this year new laws are taking place that will improve things.


One of these new laws is denominated “Infrastructure in exchange for Taxes”. It’s a law that seeks for companies to increase their social responsibility efforts, by projecting more into the national development. Many think that this law is nothing more that just brick and mortar, because the law originally was conceived so that companies can build much needed social infrastructure in exchange for taxes. But the development of one of the most important and renewable industries in Peru needs not only infrastructure, but also capacitated professionals in the field and it’s here where the universities play a very important roll. This law now allows for companies to also invest in education, as well as in the development of the fishing and aquaculture industry.


Companies, in coordination with the government, could now built an incubation center or hatchery at a local university, for research and production. The private enterprise would finance the project and the government will return all 100% of the investment in tax credit. In each one of the twelve regions on the Peruvian coast there already exists a national university with a school or faculty in Fisheries Biology, Aquaculture Biology or Fisheries Engineering. Peru has several national universities and many professionals could be trained in the continental areas also. In Puno there is Fisheries Engineering faculty right by the shoreline of the Titicaca lake, the highest one in the world. The Titicaca lake is like an inland ocean shared by Peru and Bolivia, and it not only a big one, it’s very deep and full of live. Nowadays the trout industry is a very important activity that takes place in this lake.


Peru has trained professionals in fishing and aquaculture through many of his national universities, because they are sure that this sector has a tremendous future. As a matter of fact Peru was the biggest producer and exporter of fishmeal during the decade of the sixties. A prize won for the excessive use of its resources. Back in the sixties, fishmeal was used to feed chickens and pigs. Today, the main market for fishmeal is the aquaculture industry and fish oil is a very expensive ingredient in animal feed. These days both of these products can be utilized for direct human consumption. Fishmeal and fish oil used for human feed have a value ten times higher in nutrition than those employed for animal feed. The Peruvian history of its blessed sea has always been closely associated with the exploitation of it without measuring the consequences of over exploitation.


Without science, control and dialogue amongst all those involved, the sustainability of the renewable marine and continental resources will be impossible to achieve. Luckily, it seems like a very important lesson has been learned from the past few years, specially from this last year that has been a very bad one for the industry and has left everyone reflecting on what has happened, has opened a dialogue and agreements are being reached on how the fishing and aquaculture industries should be handled. What is needed now is serious commitment between the government and all those involved in this sector. And this is what seems to be happening now.

IMARPE came out with a study on the Patagonian tooth fish fishery. It’s not a big fisheries, in 2015 it exported about 157 tons of fresh fish to the USA, but ten years ago no more than 70 tons where captured. During the past ten years only six vessels were dedicated to this fishery.

In 2005 the Peruvian government, based on a study by the IMARPE, established an annual quota of 400 MT. In the past ten years this quota was never reached and during 2016 total capture was slightly over 160 MT. But even so IMARPE rationalized that there was overfishing. This propelled an open dialogue between the government, IMARPE, vessel captains and shipbuilders, which resulted in taking place of exploratory and research fishing cruises to be able to determine next year’s quota. Peru will soon be able to establish future conditions for its fisheries based on one simple important word, “dialogue”.


The World Wind Fund for Nature Conservation (WWF) has invested a lot of time and money in research and development of the Mahi Mahi fishery, Thanks to that they now posses great knowledge on this subject. They also had and excellent an interesting initiative in creating the Forum for Sustainable Fisheries. WWF managed to get together state agencies, scientists, businesses associations, fishermen guilds, professional schools and NGO’s, once every month for a dialogue amongst them, under its tutelage. The government liked this channel of dialogue and it not actively participated in it, but it has also already established the agenda and the date for the next meeting on January 26, 2017.


Today sustainability is a tendency that’s in vogue not only in the Peruvian sea but all around the country. It’s a complex concept that Peruvians are still starting to understand, but aspire to achieve it. And one way to achieve it is through dialogue. The Peruvian fishery and aquaculture sectors are involved in dialogue right now; they have good ideas, good professionals and the best wishes to be able to feed the world with the best high quality protein. It will be achieved, it’s only a matter of time…and by turning our dialogue into real concrete actions.


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!