Shrimp processing (Photo: courtesy of Revista Puerto)
Shrimp season is over
Wednesday, September 21, 2022, 12:00 (GMT + 9)
With catches to date 10% lower than last year, good fresh sales and a complicated outlook for frozen fish, with good biological status but declining biomass and the continuation of bad fishing practices, the season is coming to an end 2022 in national waters.
Tonight will be the last day of dispatch to the fishing of the beam vessels and on the 30th the season in national waters will be closed. The date coincides with the beginning of the reproductive process of the hubbsi hake, the increase in bycatch is marking it and the needs of the market collaborate so that this year, at least one sector does not oppose and press to continue fishing. The fishing year for shrimp ends with good catches, good sales for the fishermen and bad for the freezers, with better product quality in port, but with the continuity of bad fishing practices.
Last week the decision to stop the freezer beam trawlers had already been made: stopping fishing was a commercial necessity for most companies, but the biological conditions of the environment ended up deciding the total closure of the fishery.
On Friday, the Federal Fisheries Council, despite not having met, issued a note announcing that the closure of sub-areas 8, 12, 15 east and 16 had been arranged, as of that same day, but in turn decreed the end it's from the season. Starting at 11:59 p.m. on September 21, the dispatch to shrimp fishing will be suspended and from 7:00 p.m. on the 30th, no vessel will be able to carry out fishing operations in waters under national jurisdiction.
The increase in the percentage of hake bycatch in the catches that marks the beginning of the reproductive process of the species and the presence of juvenile shrimp, added to the decrease in yields, has led the fishing authorities to establish the dates that end the a particular season.
This year, the distribution of the shrimp throughout the closed area allowed a greater deconcentration of the fleet, which worked in three or four groups of boats in different subareas at the same time.
The openings and closings were very dynamic and a large part of the closed season was explored, although there were some subareas where the fleet never fished, either due to the presence of juvenile shrimp or high levels of accompanying fauna. Just as shrimp was found everywhere, hake was also found. But, at the same time, the presence of shrimp to the north, outside the closed season, allowed the fleet to fish with good yields for several weeks (see The shrimp is there, but it is more difficult to access).
Commercially, the season was also particular. There was a favorable scenario for the fresh market, sales were very good and although the price was below 2021 values, it was sustained with profit margins. The United States, Peru, Spain and even China had a sustained demand. They assure that in no more than twenty days they will run out of stock, everything will have been sold (see The two faces of the shrimp commercial season).
The situation in the freezer sector was completely different: the chambers are full, 50% of what was caught is still unsold and the lack of demand from the main markets that still have stock of shrimp bought last year at a price higher than the current one is worrying. In 2022 the price fell by 30% and now they hope that after the closure of the fishery it will stabilize and allow a reactivation of sales.
To the complicated international scenario with a drop in consumption, inflation, an increase in energy costs and a depreciation of the euro as a result of the war in Ukraine, the local business community must add the internal problems of cost increases, inflation and a very disadvantageous exchange rate, which results in one of the worst commercial years for shrimp in this sector.
Although this year there were labor conflicts, they have not been of the magnitude of other years, but many are worried about what may happen as of October when it is time to start discussing parities again. If conditions abroad and borders within do not improve, the forecast for 2023 looks grim.
Regarding the behavior of the fleet, no substantial changes in fishing practices were observed. Yes, the conditions under which the shrimp arrive at the port have been improved, but there is still a lot to work on regarding what happens offshore (see “This year we are going to have to calculate how much they dumped”).
From INIDEP they have denounced that discarding has been so important that this variable should be added to the evaluation model to really know how much was fished. Discards occur in the fresh fish fleet and to a greater extent, also, in the freezer fleet. Dragging for longer than allowed, at times that are not indicated and lifting the bag with a volume of catch that is impossible to process or box before the next cast, are issues of great importance that must be worked on with a view to the 2023 season (see The competition for the shrimp generates changes in freezers).
According to official statistics, as of September 13, 157 thousand tons were unloaded; by the same date in 2021, approximately 172 thousand tons had been unloaded. This decrease implies a drop of 10% compared to the same period last year, but we will have to wait for the INIDEP calculations to know how much has actually been captured. The final figure is likely to be around 200,000 tons, the researchers estimate.
The analysis by fleet indicates that, of the total, 79,550 tons correspond to the fresh fish fleet; this includes the Rawson fleet, which operates during the first months of the year. In the breakdown by type of vessel, 31,500 tons corresponded to ships from roadsteads or estuaries; 42 thousand tons to the coastal ones and almost 6 thousand tons to the high ones. The freezer sector contributed the remaining 77,500 tons.
Another of the great challenges that the next season presents, in addition to the training of the crews of both fresh and freezer vessels in good practices that guarantee the sustainability and safety of the product, is the need to generate agreements between the operators to improve the conditions business for buyers. For the rest, the fate of Argentine companies is in the hands of the economic policy decisions made in the last year of Alberto Fernández's administration.
Source: Revista Puerto
Edited by Malena Nahum