Balance of the shrimp fishery and hope for the 2021 season

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Friday, 18 December 2020 15:54

ARGENTINA: Shrimp catches in 2020 have reached

158,697 tonnes to date, which compared to the total figures for December 2019, places them approximately 26% below. The decrease in catches was due to a late start to the season due to a delay in the reproductive period of the resource, imponderable arising from the Covid and union conflicts that affected the tango fleet.

The companies that have diversified their production with shrimp on board, land, hake and squid among other species have been able to reach the end of the year with a balanced economic equation. "The global balance for these companies is positive despite the higher costs and lower productivity generated by the Covid," says a benchmark in the export sector.

Those that are dedicated solely to fresh shrimp or squid achieved a positive balance and those dedicated to the sale of frozen shrimp or hubbsi hake exclusively, are the ones that have been more complicated. "The tangoneros have had two and a half months of season, with that the fixed expenses are not amortized", assured the businessman.

The complications for the tango sector arose from the very beginning of the pandemic. The European lockdown buckled the markets and the already low price collapsed to the point of not covering costs. This discouraged the assembly of the vessels despite the late opening of the season for biological reasons. And the situation worsened when the joint negotiation led to a prolonged and at times violent conflict.

By the time the conflict ended, the markets of Europe and the United States were reactivated. In addition, given the evidence that there would be a few months to resupply, all the shrimp that was caught was sold. Anyway, he was not enough to recover.

The sector tried to extend the season beyond the first week of October to take advantage of demand, but biology confirmed that INIDEP's recommendation to cut off in October is adequate and the entire closed area and adjacent waters had to be quickly closed , due to the high level of hake bycatch and the small size of shrimp.

This lower activity of the tango fleet generated a decrease of almost 30% in catches, a situation that will surely be reflected in the next INIDEP campaign report. Researchers have been warning for years that, if the exploitation levels seen until 2019 continue, it was likely that the abundance of the resource would be affected. What happened, following the reasoning of the scientists, could generate a greater availability of resources by 2021.

This year the freezers fished less and that may generate a greater abundance, but the fresh fish boats fished almost 20% more, were always active and increased sales compared to last year, a scheme that they intend to maintain. If in 2021 everyone returns to work at full capacity, the effect would be the opposite.

This scenario highlights the need to balance fishing exploitation in order to project years of good catches in the future and for this it is necessary that the development of a management plan that the fishing authorities have owed since 2017 is not delayed.

On the other hand, we must not forget that there are other biological aspects of this resource that will surely not change because they are more complex processes, as we have been taught by the Crustacean Program. The delay in the shrimp maturation process and the size distribution have led to a late opening of the season in recent years. In Rawson, the season also started late this year and catches have been improving, although with a majority of L3, L2 and very little L1; but the shipowners are confident that the situation will be reversed in the short term.

The year 2021 looks hopeful from the biological point of view and if, as it seems, vaccines and the immunization achieved in the population are effective in curbing the virus, it could also be so in the markets. For the fresqueros it could mean a year as good as this one and for the freezers the possibility of realigning finances.

It would only remain for the sector to be accompanied by a responsible administration that executes the management plan and allocates a greater budget to INIDEP or finds ways to finance it so that it works with the necessary number of observers, carries out all the campaigns and so that the researchers who do with their knowledge of successful fisheries are ranked and receive decent salaries.

Source: FIS (Revista Puerto)

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