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Big chill hits Chilean hake landings, with tonnage quota reduced this year.

Big Chill Hits Chilean Hake Landings, With Tonnage Quota Reduced This Year

Whoops! Chile's hake catch seems to have dropped sharply last year, and the quota for this year is expected to be only 40,000 tons, according to Eduardo J. Infante, executive vice president of Comercial Cisandina Chile S.A.

From Infante's presentation to the International Seafood Conference in Luxembourg, it wasn't entirely clear what caused the problem. But he did suggest that the "size of the fleet was increased irrationally" in recent years, and that apparently led to overfishing.

Australis hake landings were over 55,000 tons for both 1989 and 1990, after reaching a peak of 70,000 in 1988. But last year, they sank to 35,000, with the catch per boat way down. Catch per boat was also down for kingklip, but total catch last year was still 14,000 tons, off only a bit from 1990, and the quota for this year is expected to be about the same.

Highly valued in Spain, where it fetches well over $3 a kilogram FOB in headed and gutted form, australis hake is also sold in the United States in frozen fillet form, where it is regarded as a good substitute for haddock. Golden kingklip has a similar marketing pattern, with skinless fillets fetching $2 a pound. It is also a local favorite for fresh consumption in Chile.

Whiting is the only species to show a steady increase in catch, which was 54,000 tons last year vs. 31,000 in 1987; this year's quota will probably also be 54,000. It is a lower-priced species, exported in fillet and block form -- especially to Australia. Blocks also sell well in Europe, especially the United Kingdom and fillets in the USA.

Still another species, grouper, is caught almost entirely by local in-shore fishermen with small boats. It isn't even subject to a quota yet, and landings for 1991 haven't been reported. They average about 4,500 tons, but reached 7,000 in 1989. Although the volume is small, the value is high -- skin-on fillets get over $7 a kilogram in Japan and the U.S. But swordfish is more profitable for the fishermen, so when they can catch more swordfish they catch less grouper.

Prospects for 1992 are influenced by the implementation of new fishing regulations approved by the Chilean Parliament last fall. The previous law had stood unchanged for 30 years, and Infante implied that "very powerful interests" in the $1 billion fishing industry had held up reform. But the industry had other troubles than the impending law -- four land-based groundfish companies went belly up last year in a sea of red ink.

"Good or bad, the new regulations now include all the necessary tools to manage the resources and regulate the industry," Infante commented. "Time will tell whether it will be efficient or not, but at least now we have some clear rules of the game."

Seven of the 12 factory trawlers that had been operating in Southern waters didn't like the new rules -- they've headed for friendlier waters elsewhere. [Graph Omitted]
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Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Words:516
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