After two decades of hard work to head the rankings of catches (first in the region) and tuna exports (second in the world), Ecuador imposes a new challenge: to demonstrate that it can also become a reference in the conservation of the fishing resource, with which this year hopes to conquer new markets in Northern Europe.
To achieve this, for the past two years, 5 companies (Nirsa, Jadran, Servigrup, Eurofish and Tri Marine) have been working to obtain the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), one of the most prestigious international certifications that, from next year, will guarantee that the Ecuadorian tuna is fished responsibly.
In the country, about 500,000 tons of tuna are processed every year, of which between 260,000 and 280,000 tons come from Ecuadorian vessels and the rest from foreign flags. Guillermo Morán, former Vice Minister of Fisheries and now manager of Tunacons, project within which certification is requested, recalls that the country has been reaching its leadership just specializing its offer, according to the need of the international markets to which it has been pointing. “We worked and continue to work hard on added value: to combine tuna with different products, such as oils and vegetables; with several packaging presentations. “
What is done now is not far from that goal. The idea of this certification, he explains, is also to win over new consumers from Northern Europe (such as England, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway) who increasingly demand responsibility in the management of fishing. “From 2020, this will be a requirement in Europe.”
Working on a plus that makes the Ecuadorian product more attractive is a need that urges the tuna fleet. Morán explains that years of challenge are coming, especially when this sector gets ready to see its production increase.
Having raised the cost of the diesel gallon from $ 1.25 to $ 2.50 could condemn these companies to lose competitiveness. And to prove it, the sector prefers to compare itself with Panama, where it operates with a gallon that is at $ 1.75 and other benefits. There is not paid 5% of the Exit Currency Tax (ISD), there are no tariffs and it is contracted with total labor flexibility. Something similar happens with the countries of East Asia, where minimum wages are paid to workers, another factor with which Ecuador finds it difficult to compete.
Pablo Guerrero, director of Fisheries of the World Nature Foundation (WWF), explains that certification implies an effort on the part of the fleet to control the stock of species and keep them healthy, with the development of new fishing tools that include materials biodegradable or with the training of captains and crew to ensure good management of bycatch.
In the region, says Guerrero, Ecuador will be first to obtain this seal that in the world, not even countries like Thailand, its main competitor, do not have it.
The country in the global market
After one year, the country processes about 500,000 tons of tuna. Of this total, up to 280,000 come from Ecuadorian flag vessels, the rest comes from foreign vessels that provide production to Ecuador.
Of what Ecuador processes, 80% goes to export and 20% is sold in the local market. In the country, the fishing sector annually generates $ 1,500 million in exports, of which $ 1,100 to $ 1,200 million come from tuna.
It is estimated that between the capture and processing of tuna, the industry generates an average of 24,000 direct and 120,000 indirect jobs. 53% of the people employed in plants are women. (I)