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Anchovy Economics

One way or another, as The Fishopedia puts it, "Almost everything feeds on the anchovy." (Vegetarians and vegetables too—you'll find anchovies in the fish-meal fertilizer used in much organic farming.) — The Schoolmarm

Fish is the primary source of animal protein for roughly one sixth of the world's people, and contributes about 7% of the world's total food supply. Fish has been called "the protein of the poor." We of The Anchovy are a major food of almost all predatory fish, making Us a key species in the food chain. We are in turn a major consumer of plankton.

The Peruvian anchovy fishery has been the largest fishery in the world since 1960. Ten per cent (10%) of the world's total finfish catch are Peruvian anchovies.  Although the anchovy catch exceeds that of any other fish every year, the annual catch fluctuates.  Over-fishing, natural fluctuations in recruitment and mortality, and El Niño events all contribute to the fluctuating catch."

"News of a failed anchovy harvest off South America would immediately affect the price of Midwestern soybeans. To be a few minutes behind that news could mean the loss of millions to traders," wrote Charles Babcock in InformationWeek (Tuesday, September 23, 2003).

Primary Anchovy Exporting Countries: Peru, Chile, Spain, Portugal, France. Their distribution is worldwide. They aare even found in the Chesapeake Bay on the U.S. east coast.

Primary Consumers: Japan, United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain


In South Africa:
"South Africa's pelagic fishery has depended on anchovy since the stocks of pilchard declined significantly in the 1960s. . . . Poor anchovy recruitment and consequent reduction in catches have had the effect of lowering the country's production of fish meal and also of causing economic hardship for the fishers who have little else to turn to in adversity. Therefore, the pelagic fishery has been faced with social and economic pressures that have been virtually impossible to overlook. . . . Decision-makers have until now been forced to try and combine the results of rigorous scientific assessment with unquantifiable statements about socio-economic needs usually made only in times of reducing stock size. Clearly, this is an impossible position. . . . " (From "Food Insecurity: Pressures on South Africa's Living Marine Resources," by Awie Badenhorst, Sea Fisheries Research Institute, Roggebaai. Published in African Security Review Vol 6, No 1, 1997. For the full text, click here.)

The computer program ANCHOVY enables the user to run the Peruvian fishery. The goal is to maximize profit without crashing the fishery.

According to Ken Sheets, writing in Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine (January 1998), "U.S. farmers may not get rich on El Niño, but they do stand to benefit to a small degree. Credit the lowly anchovy. El Niño heated waters off the Pacific coast of South America, which reduced the anchovy harvest and sent prices of the herringlike fish soaring 75% above normal. Since anchovies are ground up and used for livestock feed, users are substituting cheaper soybeans for anchovy meal, and that translates into higher exports for U.S. soybean farmers." (Emphasis added.)

Birds at risk as North Sea is plundered of small fish
James Reynolds, Environment Correspondent

Industrial fisheries plundering the North Sea for animal and fish feed have caused the most catastrophic breeding season on record for seabirds in the United Kingdom.

Coastal species, such as puffins, and those that frequent the open seas, such as skuas, are coming under increasing threat as vessels harvest millions of tons of sand-eels, anchovies and other small fish, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (Scotland). . . . (For the report, click here.)

This just in . . .

Prof. Dr. Sadettin Turhan of the Department of Nutrition of Ondokuz Mayıs (May Nineteen) University's School of Agriculture in Turkey predicts that the fresh anchovy burger will soon be a craze and the hamburger’s leading competitor in his country.

The Black Sea treasure "fresh anchovy" ("hamsi" in Turkish) has a tradition of being included in various dishes in Turkey. Rice with hamsi, charcoal-roasted hamsi on a spit, pickled hamsi, and even hamsi dessert have exploited the fish.

The "hamsiburger" recipe is simple: Onions, food starch, a dash of salt, pepper and cumin are mixed with ground anchovies for the simple Black Sea fresh anchovy patty.

The Department anticipates that the hamsiburger will be a leading competitor in the line of fast foods in Turkey. (For the full report, click here.)

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Illustrations © copyright 1997 by Annika Eklöf. All rights reserved.