Peruvian anchoveta

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Peruvian anchoveta
Engraulis ringens.jpg
Scientific classification
E. ringens
Binomial name
Engraulis ringens
Jenyns, 1842
  • Anchoviella tapirulus (Cope, 1877)
  • Engraulis pulchellus Girard, 1855
  • Engraulis tapirulus Cope, 1877
  • Stolephorus tapirulus (Cope, 1877)

The Peruvian anchoveta (Engraulis ringens) is a species of fish of the anchovy family, Engraulidae, from the Southeast Pacific Ocean. It has yielded greater catches than any other single wild fish species in the world, with annual harvests varying between 4.2 and 8.3 million tonnes in 2008–2012.[2] Almost all of the production is used for the fishmeal industry. The Peruvian anchoveta may be the world's most abundant fish species.[3]

Distribution and ecology[edit]

Peruvian anchoveta are found in the southeastern Pacific Ocean off Peru and Chile, and typically found in huge schools within 80 km (50 mi) of the coast. They live for up to 3 years, reaching 20 cm (8 in).[4] They first reproduce at about 1 year age and 10 cm (4 in) length, whereas they are harvested as early as 6 months of age and 8 cm (3 in) length.[1] Anchoveta were previously thought to eat mostly phytoplankton, small zooplankton, and larvae. However, recent work has shown that anchoveta get most of their energy from larger zooplankton, including macrozooplankton.[5] Krill and large copepods are the most important dietary components.


The anchoveta has been characterised as "the most heavily exploited fish in world history".[1] The top yield was 13.1 million tonnes in 1971, but has undergone great fluctuations over time.[1] After a period of plenty in the late 1960s, the population was greatly reduced by overfishing[6] 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 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 million tonnes in 1994.[1] Along with the El Niño of 1982–1983, the 1997–1998 El Niño, the strongest on record, caused a loss in population of the anchoveta, negatively impacting fisheries, and therefore, the economy.[7] In 2008–2012, the annual catches varied between 4.2 and 8.3 million tonnes, which is consistently more than for any other fish species harvested in the wild.[2] In October 2015, an El Niño year, of 3.38 million metric tons of anchoveta surveyed by the Peruvian Marine Research Institute, only 2 million metric tons were of reproductive age; 5 million metric tons are needed to open fisheries. The fishing industry claimed populations were more around 6.8 million metric tons of reproductive-age anchoveta, so despite discrepancies, the Peruvian Ministry of Production allowed the opening of anchoveta fisheries the second season, but with a quota: 1.1 million metric tons, about half the quota of the first season of the year.[8]


Until about 2005 the anchoveta was almost exclusively used for making fishmeal. Peru produces some of the highest quality fishmeal in the world.[citation needed] 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.[9] 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 then-president of Peru Alan García helped to make the anchoveta known to rich and poor alike. Previously it was not considered as food and hardly known among the population. It is now 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.[10]

Culinary aspects[edit]

Canned anchovy fillets found commonly in the US are intensely salty and are often removed of skin and bones. Often, they are marked as "Product of Morocco," which are salted-matured anchovy fillets. Canned anchovetas sold in Peru and other places are extremely similar to the canned sardines widely available in the US, hence the name "Peruvian sardines".[citation needed] Recently, new ways of preparation for the anchovetas have been developed in Peru, so new products are already in the international market such as anchoveta chicharrones, anchoveta jerky meat, anchoveta paste, and anchoveta steaks.

Fishing rights[edit]

The concept of fishing rights varies from country to country. In some countries, fishing rights are imposed, or a required fishing license, while in others, they are based on the underlying concept of resource rent. In this respect, the definition and calculation of fishing rent enables recognition of the payment that the state should receive for the use of a renewable natural resource: in this case anchoveta. The anchoveta fishery is of particular interest, not only because it ranks among the world's largest, but because in 2008 Peru passed the Maximum Catch Limit per Vessel Law (Ley de Límites Máximos de Captura por Embarcación, LMCE), which entails the assignment of resource usage rights. Economic theory holds that the implementation of the resource rent means that it is the maximum possible compared with the open access status that previously existed. If fishery is of open access, there will be no resource rent due to the presence of a very large number of fishing boats, which leads to the extraction of the resource beyond biologically sustainable levels. Meanwhile, if a fishery falls under a regime of assigned property rights, then the rent generated will be positive and will guarantee a biologically and economically efficient level of extraction.[11] Peruvian fishing regulations stipulate a charge for fishing rights as payment for the use of a resource belonging to the nation. Each boat owner is charged for fishing rights based on a percentage of the price of fishmeal per ton landed. Recently there has been debate as to the relevance of the quantity of fish landed and whether this genuinely reflects the resource rent, given that the implementation of LMCEs have prompted an increase in the value of the anchoveta resource.


  1. ^ a b c d e Iwamoto, T., Eschmeyer, W. & Alvarado, J. 2010. Engraulis ringens The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2.
  2. ^ a b Fish, crustaceans, molluscs, etc: Capture production by principal species in 2012[permanent dead link] FAO Fisheries Statistics (accessed 12 Oct 2014)
  3. ^ Chappell, Bill (November 3, 2011). "Along With Humans, Who Else Is In The 7 Billion Club?". NPR.
  4. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2014). "Engraulis ringens" in FishBase. 10 2014 version.
  5. ^ (Espinoza & Bertrand 2008,[full citation needed] Espinoza et al. 2009[full citation needed]).
  6. ^ Pauly, Daniel; et al. "Towards sustainability in world fisheries". Nature. Retrieved 7 June 2014.
  7. ^ "International Research Institute for Climate and Society | Why do we care about El Niño and La Niña?". Retrieved 2016-10-27.
  8. ^ "Overfishing and El Niño Push the World's Biggest Single-Species Fishery to a Critical Point". Oceana. Retrieved 2016-10-27.
  9. ^ Canadian Food Inspection Agency. "Canned Sardine Standard". Retrieved 19 September 2012.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Galarza, Elsa. "Fishing Rights: The Case of the Peruvian Anchoveta Fishery". Revista Apuntes. 40 (73): 7. Archived from the original on 2015-04-14. Retrieved 8 April 2015.