The country today has vessels that have a capacity to catch from 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 one of “greatest power” in the region and the second in the world, after Thailand.

Ecuador has registered and recognized rights 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, the body that establishes the fishing quota and records the fleets and their capacity.

The country has ships 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 dock of Posorja (Guayas).

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

According to Leone, the Chamber presented a fleet renewal program during dialogues with the Government last year. And it was already welcomed by the Minister of Aquaculture and Fisheries, Katuska Drouet.

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

He explains that until now he has already made contact with shipyards around the world, which will come to the country to present their offers. The plan also contemplates an adequate financing scheme. To have a 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 Industrialists and Processors (Ceipa), says the weakness of the country is to have a fleet that is too old, between 30 and 40 years old. He explains that with these boats they do tasks of 30 to 60 days due to the distances at 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 spokesman of Ceipa, 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 largest tuna producer in the world, after Thailand. In 2017 this industry contributed with 9% of the total non-oil exports of the country, that is, they were 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 tons of tuna per year: 80% is sent to the foreign market (loins, cans and ‘pouch’) and 20%, to local consumption. 250 000 tonnes 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 to any guild. Most industries (70%) settle in Manta, a city considered the ‘Capital of Tuna’. The Weekly LÍDERES publishes today a special on the Ecuadorian tuna industry.

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