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Excerpt i watch news: ‘Free-for-all’ decimates fish stocks in the southern Pacific January 25, 2012

Posted by jaldenh in News & Views.

By Mort Rosenblum and Mar Cabra

Peru’s ‘Vanished’ Anchoveta

Peru is the world’s second largest fishing nation after China.  The ramshackle port of Chimbote – the country’s biggest – lands more fish than the entire Spanish fleet catches in a year.

Here the issue is not just the over-fishing of jack mackerel but also anchoveta, which looks like an anchovy-sized sardine, a crucial source of fishmeal for aquaculture.

Peru’s anchoveta is the largest global fishery. While fishmeal exports are big business in Chile — about $535 million annually — in Peru they are three times bigger: $1.6 billion a year.

You smell Chimbote long before you see it. Reeking oily dark smoke billows from a forest of chimneys. Artisan boats bob in every direction around the battered wharves.

Nationally imposed rules define what is supposed to happen when vessels tie up with fish. But when asked when they last saw inspectors, a pair of aging fishermen looked at each other and laughed.

ICIJ, with the investigative reporting group IDL-Reporteros in Lima, obtained records from the official database of catches, which shows the extent of fraud shielded behind factory gates.

An analysis of more than 100,000 weighing records from 2009 to the first half of 2011 found that most of Peru’s fishmeal companies systematically cheated on half of the landings— in some cases, underreporting catches by 50 percent.

This fraud allows companies to catch more fish than quotas allow, to save on taxes and per-ton levies, and to pay less to fishermen who earn a percentage of the catch.

In all, at least 630,000 metric tons of anchoveta — worth nearly $200 million in fishmeal — “vanished” in the weighing process over two and a half years. They simply weren’t counted. Top offenders are Peruvian, but the ranking also includes PacAndes’ China Fishery Group and three companies with Norwegian investment.

Peru’s deputy fisheries minister Jaime Reyes Miranda acknowledged in an interview with ICIJ that there are “serious problems” with scales at fishmeal plants and said the government is trying to find a solution to make sure anchoveta numbers are not manipulated.

Richard Inurritegui, president of the National Fisheries Society, the leading industry group, downplayed the investigation’s findings and blamed the masters’ visual estimates for the discrepancies between fish declared by vessels and fish weighed in the plants. China Fishery Group refused to comment despite numerous requests.

Patricia Majluf, vice president of Imarpe, Peru’s highly regarded oceans institute, described what she says are countless ways for fishermen and fishmeal plants to cheat on weight, evade taxes, cut corners and break rules.

If caught, she said, companies are able to delay penalties for four years and end up paying a fraction of fines levied.

Despite its solid reputation, the recommendations of Imarpe for a monitored decrease in fishing continue to get ignored.




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