Aquaculture, and especially shrimp culture, has been an important source of employment and foreign currency for the country. According to the National Aquaculture Chamber of Ecuador, Ecuadorian shrimp exports reached their highest peak in 1998, with 114 000 tonnes, valued at USD 875 million. In 2000 the shrimp industry suffered it largest drop in exports as a result of the impact of the White Spot Syndrome Virus, production reaching only 37 700 tonnes. By the end of year 2002, shrimp exports in Ecuador reached 46 800 tonnes, 3.24 percent more than the previous year, but still far from a true recovery of production. Besides the problems caused by the White Spot Syndrome Virus, the Ecuadorian shrimp aquaculture industry was severely affected by the drastic fall of international prices of shrimp.
In 2001, Ecuadorian shrimp prices dropped approximately 22 percent in relation to the previous year, with yet a further 9 percent decrease in 2002, worsening the crisis faced by the sector. At present, shrimp production volumes are increasing once again, after various attempts to devise production methods capable of overcoming the presence of the White Spot Syndrome Virus. It appears that shrimp have developed tolerance to this virus, allowing the attainment of production rates per hectare, similar to those prevailing prior to the spread of the disease. However, the low international prices do not allow the activity to generate the same levels of income as in previous years.
Shrimp exports in the first five months of 2005 (January-May period), registered a record figure of 35 854 tonnes, 28 percent more than the production for that same period in 2004.
More than 95 percent of Ecuadorian aquaculture corresponds to marine shrimp (Litopenaeus spp.), followed by tilapia, whose culture has had a noticeable growth over the last five years; other species, such as freshwater fish and crustaceans, are also cultured in small scale. Freshwater aquaculture has developed mostly in the inter-Andean region, basically with the development of rainbow trout farms. Culture of the channel catfish has made some progress in the coastal region.
The development of shrimp culture has taken place mainly along the coastline region, where favourable natural conditions occur creating a propitious environment for the development of aquaculture.
This activity was initiated in Ecuador during 1968, in the vicinities of Santa Rosa, Province of El Oro, when a group of local agricultural entrepreneurs conducted a trial after watching that shrimp grew in natural ponds neighbouring the local estuaries. Towards 1974, there were already some 600 hectares under cultivation.
The real expansion of the shrimp industry took place during the decade of the 1970s in the Provinces of El Oro and Guayas, where availability of vast saltpans and the abundance of post larvae made aquaculture a profitable business.
Areas intended for shrimp production expanded continuously until the middle of the decade of the 1990s; not only did more enterprises made investments in shrimp production, but also in packaging plants, larvae production hatcheries and feed manufacturing plants as well as in the production of other inputs and supplies aquaculture.
Until 1998 (the last period for which statistics on the subject area available), the Under-Ministry of Fisheries Resources registered 2 006 shrimp industries, 312 larvae hatcheries, 21 feed manufacturing plants and 76 processing plants. Towards 1999, the Remote Sensor Integrated Resources Survey Centre determined that 175 253.5 ha were occupied by shrimp production infrastructure.
Since May the 28th 1999 shrimp culture has been affected by the White Spot Syndrome Virus. This epidemic disease started in the Province of Esmeraldas, spreading soon to the other three coastal provinces where shrimp is cultured. Its occurrence had an adverse effect on production with a dramatic impact on the overall national economy, and a severe reduction in employment.
At present, it is difficult to asses the precise amount of laboratories and total surface area dedicated to shrimp production. Table 1 shows a summary of the available infrastructure for aquaculture production, according to the National Aquaculture Chamber. Support services indirectly related to the fisheries sector should be added; such as repair shops, internal and international transportation, suppliers, basic municipal and state services, etc.
Table 1. Infrastructure of the aquatic sector
Aquaculture in Ecuador has started to undergo diversification; shrimp being the main produce, but not anymore the sole product. Tilapia culture has shown a rapid growth in recent years, taking advantage of the vast amount of shrimp ponds which were abandoned after the appearance of Taura Syndrome Disease which affected approximately 14 000 hectares of farms in the area of Taura of the Guayas Province. This available unused infrastructure facilitated the introduction of the cultivation of red Tilapia as an alternative, and later became a complementary culture when tilapia-shrimp polyculture was adopted towards 1995. At present, some 2 000 hectares are dedicated to the cultivation of tilapia.
This industry requires abundant labour force, support personnel, researchers and technicians participating throughout the entire production process of both, shrimp and tilapia; in turn, this activity creates indirect jobs in other sectors, such as input and service supplier businesses.
In 1998, which was the record year in Ecuadorian shrimp exports, the sector held 250 000 jobs, representing 4.2 percent of the national economic working force. This figure corresponds to direct jobs; considering an average family is formed by five members, the sector was indirectly related to 1 250 000 people.
In the year 2001, as a direct consequence of the White Spot Syndrome Virus, it is estimated that more than 100 000 workers lost their jobs.
Aquaculture in Ecuador has also contributed to the stability of academic institutions and has been a source of employment for specialized and trained personnel; as well as for private and public institutions dedicated to research and technological development.
With regards to tilapia, the more appropriate areas for cultivation are: Taura, Samborondón, Chongón, Daule and El Triunfo in the Province of Guayas. Through studies conducted over time, the production of tilapia has expanded to the Provinces of Manabí, Esmeralda and Eastern Ecuador.
As for tilapia, the variety exported by Ecuador is red Tilapia, a tetrahybrid, resulting from the interbreeding of four representative species of the Oreochromis genera: O. mossambicus, O. niloticus, O. hornorum and O. aureus.
Shrimp production in Ecuador is mainly semi-intensive, which has low environmental impact. Cultivation of shrimp is undertaken by both: small and large producers.
Yields may vary significantly amongst farms, as well as from one year to another, depending upon the production method adopted by the farmer.
Table 2. Main characteristics of the cultivation practices for shrimp and tilapia.
Following the implementation of industrial shrimp production methods, which was initiated around 1976, Ecuador became an important world shrimp producer and exporter for international markets.
After constant growth of the sector, in 1998 Ecuador exported 114 795 tonnes with a FOB value of USD 875 millions; the highest recorded value. In this peak year of shrimp production, exports of this crustacean contributed with 26 percent of total private exports.
In 1999, production decreased by 17.5 percent in volume and 29 percent in FOB value in relation to the previous year, caused by the White Spot Syndrome Virus which appeared during the second semester of that year. Nevertheless shrimp continues to be one of the main export items. During the year 2000, exports contributed in 5.6 percent to the country’s private exports. According to the data of the Central Bank, until November 2001 shrimp exports in Ecuador represented 6 percent of total private exports.
The immediate result of this drastic fall in Ecuadorian exports, was a rapid price increase to such high levels, that even with yields of only 300– 500 lb/ha, producers could generate important earnings.
Towards the second semester of 2000, production by Asian and Brazilian farmers started to reach international markets, thus causing the gradual reduction of Ecuadorian prices.
Figure 3 shows the volume and value of Ecuadorian shrimp exports. As may be observed, as of 1999 the volume and price of shrimp fall drastically, caused by the above mentioned reasons: 1) the White Spot Syndrome Virus in 1999, and 2) the drop of international prices as of 2001 due to the over-supply from China, Brazil, and Taiwan P.C., exacerbated by the events of September 11.
Production volumes have continued to increase once again since 2001, but have only reached about half the total production of 1998 and one third of their value.
Shrimp exports during the first months of 2005 (January – May period), registered a record amount of 35 854 tonnes, which is 28 percent more in comparison to the same period for the year 2004.
Although Ecuadorian tilapia production is bound for various European and American countries, 91 percent of the exports are exclusively marketed in the United States. In the United States of America, Ecuadorian tilapia reached 10 400 tonnes in 2004. Tilapia is the third aquatic product imported by the United States of America, only after shrimp and the Atlantic salmon.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Ecuador according to FAO statistics:
During the first semester of the year 2005, the main destination of Ecuadorian shrimp was the United States of America, to where 55 percent of the production was exported, followed by Italy (15 percent) and Spain (13 percent).
In year 2002, 61 percent of shrimp exports were directed to the United States of America, while 29 percent had the European Union as destination, and the remaining percentage went to other markets.
Figures were similar for the year 2003, when American consumers bought 63 percent of these exports, and the European Union bought 31 percent of the product.
Traditionally, the United States of America market has been the primary destination of this product, but trends in recent years have started to change. In fact, the comparison of market distribution as of May 2005 with the corresponding month for previous years, shows how the European market is being positioned as an equally important market as the United States of America.
The majority of shrimp and tilapia producers belong to medium and high economic power groups.
The public fisheries and aquaculture sector is constituted by: 1) Ministry of Foreign Commerce, Industry, Fisheries and Competitivity, which is responsible for supporting the improvement of the quality of fisheries and aquaculture products throughout their productive cycle, including the capture, selection, processing and marketing phases; this Ministry must also promote the sustainable development of fisheries and aquaculture; and 2) Under-secretary of Fisheries Resources, which was created by Legislative Decree No. 669 of 24 July 1972 published in the Official Registry Number 13 of 1 August 1972. This is the lead government agency for the fisheries and aquaculture sector, having as mandate the enforcement of laws and regulations by the sector, the elaboration of developmental plans and programmes for the fisheries and aquaculture sector, and of coordination with the private sector.
The Under-secretary of Fisheries Resources, draws its support from two institutions: the General Directorate of Fisheries, which is the national specialised agency in charge of directing and controlling fisheries and aquaculture as well as the industrialisation and marketing of their produce; and the National Fisheries Institute which is in charge of fisheries and aquaculture research and of monitoring the quality of fisheries products.
The Ecuadorian fisheries and aquaculture sector is regulated by the Law for Fisheries and Development, legislated by Decree 178 of 12 February 1974 and its Regulations, Agreements, Resolutions and Measures proceeding from competent agencies.
The private sector is formed by the National Aquaculture Chamber (CNA) created by Law in July, 1993 when the Ecuadorian Federation of Shrimp Exporters (FEDECAM), the Shrimp Producers Chamber (CPC) and the Hatcheries Association (ALAB) merged. Since then, the National Aquaculture Chamber has developed an intense action for consolidating and trade representation before public and private institutions both nationally and internationally.
At present, 708 members have joined the CNA, representing 99.1 percent of the shrimp exporters; its affiliates encompass shrimp producers, feed manufacturers, hatcheries, larvae producers, suppliers of goods and services.
The Foundation CENAIM – ESPOL is a private organisation with the mandate of conducting research on the cultivation of various species as well as of strengthening academic education of aquaculture producers, through post graduate programmes in agreement with the Littoral Polytechnics School of Higher Studies (ESPOL) and Belgian universities.
The aquatic sector also has at its disposal the Centre of Aquaculture Services (CSA), which is a non-profit organisation created in 13 November 1998 by the National Aquaculture Chamber, the Foundation CENAIM – ESPOL and the Littoral Polytechnics School of Higher Studies. Its goal is to improve shrimp production by providing solutions to shrimp diseases.
The potential of marine aquaculture, the high commercial value of its products –as compared to other fishery products-, the coastal location of facilities, the conflicting use of resources by other economic sectors, its potential environmental impact, etc., require tools and methods for proper management. Diversification, introduction of technology and implementation of “better managing practices” (BMP) are requisites to achieve a responsible and competitive aquaculture.
Shrimp culture is regulated by the “Regulations for Breeding and Culture of Bio Aquatic Species”, which was promulgated by Executive Decree Nº 1062 (Official Register 262, 2 September 1985). Several Ministerial Agreements have also been decreed in relation to commerce, post larvae imports, export products quality control, yearly fishing prohibitions (December through February) which ban post larvae and broodstock captures.
Ecuador holds a quality control system highly appraised. This system complies with: FDA requirements, the Veterinary Department of the European Union, Japanese organizations for consumers’ protection, and Canadian inspection organisations. All of shrimp processing plants satisfy all national and international quality regulations, with HACCP procedures (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), and with consumers requirements.
For more information on aquaculture legislation in Ecuador please click on the following link:
National Aquaculture Legislation Overview - Ecuador
The CENAIM-ESPOL Foundation has an Experimental Station which offers all types of facilities for applied research projects, particularly regarding shrimp culture.
Academic education is available at some universities and technical education centres. Notably, the Littoral Polytechnic School Higher Studies (ESPOL) and the Guayaquil State University offer postgraduate programs on aquaculture and environmental management.
Contrasts with previous years are even greater. Regarding export sales, revenues have increased on average 52 percent from the year 2000 to 2004 (for each period from January to October). If comparison is made between 2000 and 2004 the difference reported increases to 87 percent.
Regarding revenues of foreign currency, even considering price variations, differences are not very relevant.
According to experts on this matter, price trends show a slight decrease eventually tending to stabilise with a seasonal increase during Winter (China’s production is halted during the cold season, starting in December) and depending upon recession and other market conditions within the United States, as well as on supply increases by other producing countries.
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