A group of 18 Ecuadorean fishing and processing firms, together with three international feed producers, have agreed to carry out a fishery improvement project (FIP) for small pelagic resources, Jimmy Anastacio — economic advisor at the country’s national fishery chamber — told Undercurrent News.
Participating international feed producers are BioMar (Alimentsa), Gisis S.A. (Skretting Ecuador) and VitaPro Ecuador.
Involved fishing firms represent about 80% of the country’s small pelagic fishing companies, active both in the production of fishmeal and also of frozen and canned products for direct human consumption. They include Negocios Industriales Real (Nirsa), Empresa Pesquera Polar, Industrial Pesquera Junin, Borsea, Tadel, Fortidex, and Pesquera Centromar, among others.
The parties signed a memorandum of understanding on Aug. 22, agreeing on the plan. Moreover, on Aug. 28 they told MarinTrust Global Standard for Responsible Supply they intend to take part in the organization’s responsible supply certification program through its fishery improver program, which allows producers of marine ingredients to demonstrate their commitment to improvement towards responsibly sourced raw materials.
The small pelagic FIP in Ecuador has two main objectives, said Empresa Pesquera Polar’s vice-president and director, Carlos Cacao. “It will allow to better manage the fishery in Ecuador, but also a commercial aim, as some clients require to demonstrate raw material sustainability,” Cacao said.
NGO Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) has been actively supporting the FIP process during this phase of design and plans to keep providing support as part of the Global Marine Commodities project (GMC), according to Enrique Alonso, Latin America fishery director for SFP.
GMC is a global project funded by the Global Environment Facility and implemented by the governments of Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Philippines, and Indonesia, with technical support from the United Nations Development Programme and the SFP, Alonso added.
The aim of the project is to engage global supply chains in improving fisheries sustainability.
Ecuador small pelagic fishery
About ten species of small pelagics, including sardines and mackerel, are currently fished in Ecuadorean waters. Yearly catches in the last ten years or so have totaled up to 380,000-400,000 metric tons per year, although in 2017 catches of those species in Ecuadorean waters amounted to approximately 337,000t, and this year are lower than in previous years due to climatic conditions, according to Anastacio. Similarly, tuna catches in the eastern Pacific this year are lower than in 2017.
The fishery is currently not regulated by a quota mechanism. The FIP will help to improve evaluation and management of the resources, Anastacio said, pointing out it is a “strategic” project.
Already four private vessels have started to be used for an initial stock evaluation.
The fact that the small pelagic fishery in Ecuador involves so many different species is a challenge for establishing a new fishery management mechanism, as well as for obtaining the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification in the future because it does not certify multi-species fisheries so far, Anastacio noted. But, it might carry out a pilot project for multi-species certification in the future, he added.
Several fishing firms in Ecuador have recently invested in expanding their small pelagic business. For example, Nirsa has invested over $35 million in a new pelagic processing plant. Empresa Pesquera Polar is also building a new processing plant for small pelagics, which will be operative later this year, and Eurofish started to produce cans of small pelagics and launched a new brand for its local market earlier this year.
Ecuador is the largest tuna fishing nation in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Neighboring Peru’s anchovy fishery is the world’s largest pelagic fishery.
Earlier this summer, Ecuador’s Sustainable Shrimp Partnership (SSP), an alliance of the country’s aquaculture giants aimed at improving their production’s sustainability, established a feed working group, with the objective to “drive innovation and highlight the technological and sustainable advancements being made in the shrimp industry”.
SSP’s work is indirectly connected to the small pelagic FIP, Anastacio said, pointing out both initiatives aimed to improved sustainability.