Anchovy, Peruvian anchovy

Engraulis ringens

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Seine nets
Capture area — South East Pacific (FAO 87)
Stock area — Southern Peru/Northern Chile stock
Stock detail — Peru (Southern) and Chile (Northern): 15, 1, 2
Picture of Anchovy, Peruvian anchovy

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

Updated: September 2020

The Peruvian-Chilean anchovy fishery occurs in the Humboldt Current System (HCS), one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. The stock is highly dependent on recruitment, which in turn changes with environmental and oceanographic conditions in the Chilean ecosystem, like El Nino and La Nina events. Subsequently, anchovy stocks within this region fluctuate greatly and regularly because of environmental variabilities.

The Southern Peru-Northern Chile anchovy stock is currently at very healthy levels and is not overexploited. The stock is managed unilaterally by Peru and Chile. Both countries have implemented a suit of management measures to protect the anchovy population so that the stock can rebuild. TACs are set unilaterally by Peru and Chile despite being a single stock, which have generally been in line with advice of the respective scientific institutions. Compliance to the TAC is high. Quotas need to be made more appropriate to maintain an ecosystem balance.

Purse seining is a selective fishing gear, with little to no impact on the seabed. The fishery has low levels of bycatch. There is limited data on the impact of this fishery on ETP species and the main threat posed by the fishery to ETP species is considered to be a reduction in food availability.


A member of the Engraulidae family, Peruvian anchovy is found in the eastern South Pacific along the coast of northern Peru, southwards to Chile. It forms huge schools in surface waters and is entirely dependent on the rich plankton of the Peruvian Current. It breeds throughout the year along the entire coast of Peru, but with a major spawning in winter/spring (July to September) and a lesser one in summer (February and March); also throughout the year off Chile, with peaks in winter (May to July) and the end of spring (especially December). Peruvian anchovy mature at about 1 year (about 10 cm standard length); attains about 8 cm standard length in 6 months, 10.5 cm in 12 months and 12 cm in 18 months (maximum length 20 cm); longevity about 3 years.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0 info

The spawning stock is in a healthy state and the fished stock is not subject to over-exploitation.

Anchovy stocks are highly dependent on recruitment, which in turn changes with environmental and oceanographic conditions in the ecosystem, such as El Nino and La Nina events. Subsequently, the stock in this region can fluctuate greatly and regularly because of environmental variabilities. It is important to regularly estimate the abundance of the stock and ensure that the amount fished is sufficient to maintain the stock at a healthy level.

Stock assessments are conducted by the Peruvian and Chilean scientific institutions: Marine Institute of Peru (IMARPE) and the Fisheries Development Institute of Chile (IFPO). The scientific institutions use information from scientific surveys conducted at least twice a year in order to evaluate the biomass of the stock and oceanographic conditions. IFOP’s assessment model covers the entire stock, considering fishery and biological data from Chile and Peru. There is some uncertainty over the reliability of stock assessment data, as changes in the behaviour and a more extensive dispersion of anchoveta schools can lead to increased variability in the biomass estimates. The Scientific and Technical Committee for the Small Pelagic fisheries (CCT-PP) have expressed concerns over rapid growth estimates obtained through former stock assessment models. The stock assessment was benchmarked in 2019 and improvements were made to the model.

In 2019, the stock assessment (based on data for second semester of 2018) conducted by IFOP, which considers the whole stock (both Peruvian and Chilean components) yielded estimates of Spawning-Stock Biomass (SSB) 18% higher than the target reference point (723,000 tonnes), well above the biomass limit (Blim 361,5000 tonnes) where recruitment could be impaired. In 2019, the ratio of SSB:SSBmsy was 1.18. Based on the estimates for 2018 (2nd semester) the stock was considered underexploited, fishing mortality (F) (0.25) was determined to be well below the management target (Fmsy 0.86), which it had been since 2012. The ratio of F:FMSY was 0.29. However, the proportion of juveniles (<16.5 cm) was very high and the presence of individuals adults had reduced. Nonetheless, the reproductive potential ratio (RPR) (i.e. recruitment potential) remains high. In 2019, the RPR was 0.71, well above the target biological reference point of 0.5 for fisheries management which it has been since mid-2016.

There are three distinct stocks of anchoveta (Engraulis ringens): Northern-Central Peruvian stock; Southern Peru/Northern Chile stock; and Chilean Central-Southern stock.


Criterion score: 0.5 info

There are management measures in place for this fishery which are partly effective in managing the stock. Improvements could be made, such as collaboration and joint management measures between Peru and Chile for the anchovy as a single stock.

Anchovy are a transboundary stock, which require joint management by various countries. Management measures are designed to adapt to the fluctuating nature of anchovy populations so that they can recover. The southern Peru/northern Chile stock of anchoveta, is assessed and managed unilaterally by Peru and Chile. The management of the southern Peruvian stock is conducted with norms and decrees issued by the Ministry of Production (Ministerio de la Producción, PRODUCE) according to the recommendations produced by the Peruvian Marine Research Institute (Instituto del Mar del Peru, IMARPE). Management of the northern Chile anchovy stock is reviewed by the Chilean Undersecretary of Fisheries and Aquaculture (SUBPESCA) in accordance with the recommendations produced by the Fisheries Development Institute (Chile) (IFOP).

A management plan for the fishery was approved (April 2018) in Chile, for the Chilean component of the fishery (northern Chile stock XV-II). It presents challenges and agreed actions to improve stock status, reduce bycatch and also increase social aspects of the fishery. The management approach used undergoes peer review through the Scientific and Management Committees of the Chilean Subsecretariat de Pesca (SUBPESCA). Peer reviews are internal and external as members of these Committees may also be outside of the assessment process.

Total Allowable Catch (TAC) limits for this fishery are still set unilaterally by Peru and Chile, despite being a single stock. Set TACs from each of the two countries have been in line with the advice issues by the respective scientific institutions in recent years (2016-2020). For Peru, the TAC is divided between two fishing seasons to protect spawning anchovy; spawning January-March and July-October. In 2018 and 2019, this represented a TAC of 1,080,000 tonnes (divided into two 540,000 tonnes for each season). Since 2017, a TAC has been set for the Peruvian artisanal and small-scale component. In 2019, the artisanal TAC was set at 180,000 tonnes but this applies to the entire Peruvian coast (i.e. there are no specific catch share by each of the northern and southern Peruvian anchoveta stocks), and there is no public evidence that the quota is supported by clear scientific recommendation. Chile also set a TAC for the industrial fraction (652,519 tonnes: 2019) a TAC for the artisanal fraction (115,000 tonnes: 2019). Seasonal closures are regularly established on this stock, and have been implemented due to the high number of juveniles in the catch, to protect the juvenile fraction and spawning population.

Historically landings have always been below both Chilean and Peruvian set TAC’s. However, Peru’s TAC is set much higher than reported catches. In 2018, Peru’s landings represented 20% (216,000 tonnes) of the annual TAC set by Peru. Chile landed 755,000 tonnes in line with the Chilean TAC. Combined landings are consistently under the total TAC allowance for this stock, representing 53% of the combined TAC allowance in 2018. However, there is a 10% estimate of unreported catches in Peru by the industrial fleet and there is evidence that part of the anchoveta fished by the artisanal and small-scale fishery in Peru is illegally used for reduction purposes. Several legislative efforts have been made in both countries to reduce IUU (illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing). In 2019, Peru started to share data from the vessel monitoring system (VMS) in the Global Fishing Watch platform with the goal of increasing the transparency of the fishing activity. In Chile, the inspection body (SERNAPESCA) was reinforced and mandatory use of on-board cameras to identify and quantify discards has been recently implemented. A discards reduction plan is developing: Chilean discards are estimated at 3.4%.

Peruvian catch restrictions place both Peruvian anchovy (Engraulis ringens) and Longnose anchovy (Anchoa nasus) into a single management unit. Management of two species under combined catch restrictions prevents the effective control of single species exploitation rates, which could lead to the over-exploitation of either species.

The Chilean Fisheries Act does not legislate for catch restrictions when stocks are below the biomass limit. Instead, Biologically Acceptable Catches (BAC’s) and a resource recovery plan must be implemented. A Management Committee is required to elaborate and implement recovery plans under Article 9 of this Act.

Additional management measures in place in Peru include: seasonal quotas, with closure of the fishery occurring if the quota is reached; vessels must have a valid fishing permit; minimum mesh size is 13 mm; minimum landing size of 12cm, although up to 10% of individuals may be smaller; if the presence of juveniles exceeds 10% in the daily landings at a port, fishing will be prohibited from this port for a minimum of three days; an exclusion zone for industrial fishing within 5 miles of the coast; effort limits for the small scale fleet; closed entry for new fishing boats in both the industrial and artisanal sectors; vessels must have an operating satellite positioning system on board; daily lists are published on the PRODUCE website of permitted and prohibited fishing vessels.

A Strategic Action Program (SAP) was developed (in 2017) between Chile and Peru and measures are being implemented between both countries until 2022. The SAP is expected to increase coordinated measures between both countries for the protection of fish stocks (including juveniles) and coastal and marine habitats.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Chilean and Peruvian fishermen exploit the South Peru/Northern Chile anchovy stock. There is little to no impact on ecosystems caused by purse seiners and measures are in place to protect juveniles that can be involved in the trophic chain of predators considered ETP. Bycatch, ETP, habitat and ecosystem effects of the fishery do not appear to be significant. The main impacts to the ecosystem is the removal of anchovy on the food chain rather than through bycatch.

In Peru, Peruvian anchovy (Engraulis ringens) and Longnose anchovy (Anchoa nasus), are targeted and often caught together. However, the proportion of this species in catch is not regularly reported and stock status is not known.

Anchoveta is a pelagic species distributed at water depths ranging between 15-70 m during the day and between 5-20 m at night. In Chile, artisanal purse seines can reach depths of between 55-245 m, while industrial nets can reach 110-915 m. Seine net fisheries do not impact the seafloor unless used in shallow waters, as nets are mostly deployed at greater depths where bottom contact does not occur. In Peru, industrial vessels can only operate beyond 10 nautical miles (nm) from the coast and the artisanal and small-scale fleets can only operate beyond 3 nm, in order to protect coastal habitats and spawning and breeding zones for several species. In Chile, industrial vessels are not permitted to operate within the 5 nm coastal zone (in shallow waters).

A major challenge in recent years has been the prevalence in commercial catches of juveniles. To counteract the effects of the purse seine fishery on juvenile anchovy populations’ close seasons are implemented to protect the main recruitment period. Workshops have been provided by the Chilean government to stakeholders in order to demonstrate best fishing practice including minimising discards and bycatch. To further protect juvenile anchovy in Peruvian waters, fishing is prohibited for selected periods for specific areas where they represent more than 5% bycatch, and the fishery is restricted by a minimum mesh size of 13 mm. Peruvian vessels must declare when >10% of the catch is anchovy juveniles or other non-allowed species.

The impact of the fishery on other species is low and the fishery does not have a high level of bycatch. Peruvian observer programmes records detail between 98-99.9% of catches comprise of anchoveta, and the bycatch limit is set at 5% (however bycatch data is not regularly collected). Chile does not have data on bycatch but it is considered to be low. Evidence is provided that the bycatch volume allowed in the Chilean component of this fishery is considered negligible by scientific authorities. The main bycatch species include chub mackerel (Scomber japonicus) and jack mackerel (Trachurus murphyi). Another bycatch species in this fishery is the South American Pilchard (Sardinops sagax) (Chile region XV-II).

The Chilean scientific body, IFOP, started a program in 2013 to collect information on bycatch in demersal and pelagic fisheries. Last updated in September of 2016 the report shows reported data of total composition of catch from vessels. These data will be analysed to manage the bycatch coming from different types of gears and fisheries. Incidental capture of the short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) is known to occur in northern Chile in the industrial purse seine fishery and interactions between the South American sea lion (Otaria flavescens) causing some catch losses and damaging the gear also occurs in the artisanal fishery.

The Peruvian scientific body, IMARPE, records seabirds and marine mammals’ observations during the conduction of stock assessment surveys. However, there is no regular reporting on interactions with the anchoveta fishery. As such, the direct and indirect effects of the fishery on these species are not known in detail.

The greatest impact of this fishery might be the decrease in the availability of anchovy, as anchovy is an important prey for many of species, including Endangered, Threatened or Protected (ETP) species. Foraging efficiency of breeding seabirds may be significantly affected by not only the global quantity, but also the temporal and spatial patterns of fishery removals, thus an ecosystem approach to fisheries management should limit the risk of local depletion around breeding colonies using, for instance, adaptive marine protected areas. There are also concerns about Burmeister’s porpoise (Phocoena spinipinnis: status unknown), the Guanay Cormorant (Phalacrocorax bougainvillii: Near Threatened – IUCN) and green turtle (Chelonia mydas: Endangered - IUCN) which feed extensively on anchovy. Efforts are being taken to protect ETP species in both countries (Peru and Chile) including the establishment of three major Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Peru, covering a total area of 6,305km2, and five MPAs in Chile. The MPAs represent important refuges for seabirds and marine mammals.

The fishery for anchovy is known to interact with several ETP species of sea turtles, marine mammals, seabirds and sharks, most of which are released just after being caught. Among these, are the Humboldt Penguin (Spheniscus humboldti: Vulnerable - IUCN), Peruvian Diving Petrel (Pelecanoides garnotii: Endangered - IUCN) and Smooth Hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena: Vulnerable - IUCN). In Peru, national legislation based on the IUCN Red List, prohibits the capture of protected species (seabirds, turtles and marine mammals) for commercial purposes. These include the Peruvian Diving Petrel, Humboldt penguins, Guanay cormorants, pelicans, Peruvian booby, green sea turtles, South American sea lions and Southern fur seals. Commercial catch, processing and marketing of small cetaceans has been prohibited by national law since the mid-1990s. In Chile, a manual of good practices to avoid discarding and incidental capture of ETP species has been provided to all stakeholders active in the fishery. A manual of good practices and treatment of ETP species is also under development in the artisanal fisheries (sea lions). Workshops have been undertaken to present manuals and best practice training to stakeholders in the fishery. There is no substantial evidence that the fishery has a significant negative effect on ETP species. If the fishery is known to interact with ETP species, measures are in place to minimise mortality.

There is limited research and no current information on the impact of this fishery on the species mentioned above. A better understanding of the direct impacts of the industrial fleets on ETP species and habitats is required.

IMARPE have highlighted difficulties in predicting environmental variability and noted that focus should be on preservation of resilience of key species in the ecosystem, such as anchovy.


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