The country today has ships that have the capacity to catch 150 to 2,500 tons of tuna

April 2, 2018

Ecuador today has the most powerful tuna fleet in the Eastern Pacific. It has 116 vessels, with a towing capacity of 93 000 tons.

Bruno Leone, president of the National Chamber of Fisheries (CNP)argues that the carrying capacity of the Ecuadorian fleet makes it the “greatest power” in the region and the second on a world scale, after Thailand.

Ecuador has rights registered and recognized through the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC). In the world, for the purposes of fisheries control, there are these regional management bodies. The country is one of the 23 nations that make up the IATTC, a body that establishes the fishing quota and registers the fleets and their capacity.

The country has boats with the capacity to capture from 150 to 200 tons. The largest, with a capacity of 2 500, belongs to the company Salica Ecuador, with spanish capital, which docks at the private pier of Posorja (Guayas).

The majority of the fleet is in Manta. There, with the help of external cranes, frozen fishing is extracted from the boats to tank cars that lead to the processing plants.

According to Leone, the House presented a fleet renewal program during talks with the government last year. And he had the reception of the Minister of Aquaculture and Fisheries, Katuska Drouet.

He considers that the age of the ships makes their operation and maintenance more expensive, and they must compete with more modern ships.

He explains that so far he has already made contact with shipyards of the world, who will come to the country to present their offers. The plan also contemplates an adequate financing scheme. For reference: a ship of 1 500 m3 costs around USD 36 million in Europe.

Gustavo Núñez, vice president of the Board of Directors of the Ecuadorian Chamber of Tuna Industries and Processors (Ceipa), says that the weakness of the country is to have a fleet that is too old, between 30 and 40 years old. He explains that these boats work 30 to 60 days because of the distances to which the tuna is found.

“There the great difference and the effort made by the Ecuadorian industrialist is significant, having positioned Ecuador as the Second Fleet in the world”, he points out.

For the Ceipa spokesperson, state incentives are needed, such as soft loans to renew the fleet and underpin the growth of this sector, which reaches USD 600 million in assets.

The production

Ecuador is the second greatest tuna producer in the world, after Thailand. In 2017, that industry contributed with 9% of the country’s total non-oil exports, that is, it was USD 1,092 million.

The previous one was a year of recovery due to the increase in prices and the agreement with the European Union, but the sector believes that it is still in trouble. Rafael Trujillo, executive director of the CNP, points out that “2017 meant oxygen”.

Local industries process 500 000 tonnes of tuna per year: 80% is shipped to the external market (loins, cans and pouch) and 20% to local consumption. 250 000 tons of raw material come from the catches of the national fleet and the rest is imported.

According to Trujillo, there are about 20 large processing plants. The executive also mentions other small ones that are not affiliated with any guild. The majority of industries (70%) are installed in Manta, a city considered the ‘Tuna Capital’. Today, the weekly LÍDERES publishes a special about the Ecuadorian tuna industry.

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