The Peruvian anchoveta (Engraulis ringens) is a species of fish of the anchovy family, Engraulidae. It has yielded greater catches than any other single wild fish species in the world, with annual harvests varying between 4.2 to 8.3 million tonnes in 2008-2012. Almost all of this production is used for fishmeal industry.
Distribution and ecology
Anchoveta are pelagic fish in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, and are regularly caught on the coasts of Peru and Chile. They live for up to 3 years, reaching 20 cm. They first reproduce at about one year age and 10 cm length, whereas they are recruited to the fishery already at six months age and 8 cm length. It was previously thought that anchoveta ate mostly phytoplankton, small zooplankton, and larvae. However, recent work has shown that anchoveta get most of their energy from zooplankton and macrozooplankton (Espinoza & Bertrand 2008, Espinoza et al. 2009). Euphausiids and large copepods are the most important dietary components.
The anchoveta has been characterised as "the most heavily exploited fish in world history". The top yield was 13,1 million tonnes in 1971, but has undergone great fluctuations through times. After a period of plenty in the late 1960s, the population was greatly reduced by overfishing and the 1972 El Niño event, when warm water drifted over the cold Humboldt Current and lowered the depth of the thermocline. Nutrient rich waters were then no longer upwelled and phytoplankton production decreased, leaving the anchoveta with a depleted food source. A drastic reduction was also brought about by another strong El Niño in the early 1980s, but production was back up to 12,5 Mt in 1994. In 2008-2012, the annual catches have varied between 4.2 to 8.3 million tonnes, which is consistently more than for any other fish species harvested in the wild.
Until about 2005 the anchoveta was almost exclusively used for making fishmeal, and in fact Peru produces some of the highest quality fishmeal in the world. Since 2005 anchoveta is increasingly used for direct human consumption, as fresh fish, as canned fish or as salted-matured fillets packed in oil. Peruvian canned anchoveta is sold as Peruvian canned sardines. The new use is sometimes called the second anchoveta boom, the first boom being the discovery and subsequent fishery and fishmeal production in the 1960s/70s. The second boom was kick-started by the Peruvian Fish Technology Institute CIP, assisted by FAO. A large scale promotion campaign including by the Peruvian President at the time, Alan Garcia, helped to make the anchoveta known by rich and poor alike. Previously it was not considered as food and hardly known among the population, now it is found in supermarkets and served in restaurants. Still, only 1 percent of anchovy catches are used for direct human consumption and 99 percent continue to be reduced to fishmeal and oil.
Culinary Aspects: Anchovy vs Anchoveta
Canned anchovy fillets commonly sold in the US are intensely salty and exclude skin and bones. They're often marked "Product of Morocco". These are salted-matured anchovy fillets. Canned anchovetas sold in Peru and elsewhere are almost identical to the canned sardines widely available in the US, hence the name "Peruvian sardines". Recently new ways of preparation for the anchovetas have been developed in Peru, therefore new products are already in the international market like anchoveta chicharrones, anchoveta jerky meat, anchoveta paste and anchoveta steaks.
- Iwamoto, T., Eschmeyer, W. & Alvarado, J. 2010. Engraulis ringens The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2.
- Fish, crustaceans, molluscs, etc: Capture production by principal species in 2012 FAO Fisheries Statistics (accessed 12 Oct 2014)
- Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2014). "Engraulis ringens" in FishBase. 10 2014 version.
- Pauly, Daniel, et al. "Towards sustainability in world fisheries". Nature. Retrieved 7 June 2014.
- Canadian Food Inspection Agency. "Canned Sardine Standard". Retrieved 19 September 2012.
- Fréon, Pierre, et al. "Impacts of the Peruvian anchoveta supply chains: from wild fish in the water to protein on the plate". GLOBEC International Newsletter 16(1). Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics. Retrieved 19 September 2012.
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