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 the production is used for the fishmeal industry.
Distribution and ecology
Anchoveta are pelagic fish found in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, and are regularly caught off 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 harvested as early as six months of 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 larger zooplankton, including macrozooplankton (Espinoza & Bertrand 2008, Espinoza et al. 2009). Krill 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 over time. 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 to 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.
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), 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. 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.
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