Peru Moves to Greater Transparency and Accountability In Its All-Important Fisheries Sector

A diver in Ancón, near Lima, Peru lands an octopus.         Photo: Walter Wust

Peru is the second-largest fishing nation in the world after China, and home to one of the world’s largest single stock fisheries – the anchoveta. In 2018, after a shift to rights-based management, its industrial fishery was one of the first in the world to make its vessel location (VMS) data available to the public in order to root out illegal fishing and improve management. Then late last year, small coastal fisheries began introducing the use of property rights to increase their accountability and productivity, which is important because they feed much of the country. 

Why This Matters:  Peru may be a small country, but its fisheries are significant globally and the introduction of greater accountability for both large and small fishing vessels is a sign that better management is possible even as the national government struggles to overcome a series of corruption scandalsFishing is second only to mining in terms of importance to the domestic economy — even after coronavirus halted all exports of seafood to China, the country remains bullish about meeting its goal of increasing exports by 30% to $2 billion in 2020 due to better fisheries management. Better management became essential because the country’s fisheries productivity is subject to extreme boom and bust cycles due in great part to climate change. Improving the management of both the industrial and artisanal fisheries took effort on the part of local and international NGOs like Oceana and The Nature Conservancy and philanthropic organizations like the Walton Family FoundationIf the model works in Peru, the hope is that it can be exported to other parts of Latin America and the world.

Peru’s Artisinal IUU Fishing Problem

In 2018, the government of Peru overhauled the management of the industrial anchoveta fishery, with the help of the World Bank. by implementing a cap and trade, rights-based approach based on quotas set by a scientific body and then assigned to individual companies.  But to do the same thing in the small coastal fisheries was a much greater challenge.  There had been explosive growth in the number of vessels and fishers — according to Peru’s Ministry of Production, the numbers increased by over 640% between 1995-2015.  Their proposed rights-based regulation for coastal fisheries covers more than 80 species which needed better management because the free-for-all fisheries combined with so much more fishing effort led to a steady decline or collapse of many dietary staples like scallops, clams, mussels, crabs, and octopus that thrive in Peru’s deep coastal waters.  Renu Mittal of the Walton Family Foundation’s ocean program said of the improved coastal fisheries management, “[i]n a country whose fisheries are culturally important and recognized around the world, Peru will stand out as an example of how to manage fisheries sustainably.”

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