Around 20% of the Peruvian scallop farmers use the hanging pearl net method. Scallops farming in Peru is a completely natural process and occurs in deeper water between 5 to 40 meters, 6 to 10 miles out of the coast. Bigger companies with exports worldwide, like Acuapesca and Iprisco, use principally the more expensive hanging method as it offers: better use of their concessions, better growing of scallops, higher meat content and cleaner in-shell product (less sand). Moreover, traceability is better guaranteed than bottom farming. Nevertheless, quality and cost price after processing is more or less the same for both methods. There are three main areas for scallop farming: i) the Sechura region (Piura) where around 75% of national production takes place, ii) the Guaynumá area where 20 per cent of the national production takes place, principally by the company Acuapesca, iii) the Pisco area contributing the last 5 per cent. There are no differences between farming methods between these three regions, and in all areas hanging pearl net farmers can seed and harvest at any time of the year. Although, most farmers try to reach the most demanded sizes of 20-30/lb and some 10-20/lb shell off at around September in light of to the upcoming Christmas period.
Most scallop farmers operate in the northern part of Peru, in the Bay of Sechura, close to Piura city. This Bay of Sechura is divided by the Peruvian authorities into about 100 concessions or ‘designated’ farming areas. The government has given these concessions ‘in use’ for a period between 10 and 30 years to fishermen, companies and associations of farmers. One condition is that a concession holder must use the designated area for scallop farming. Moreover, there is a minimum production volume each year for each concession which differ in size. If a farmer doesn’t reach the minimum volume, depending on the actual natural conditions, the authorities might decide to withdraw the concession. Some bigger farmers like Iprisco have several concessions and use them all for their own production. However, a concession holder is also allowed to let the designated area (or part of it) to a third party. Consequently, it is possible that there are 20 smaller farmers operating on only one concession. Each ‘user’ is free to choose his way of farming: bottom or hanging. Big scale companies having a big part of the process (hatchery, farming, processing, export, etc) in their own hands.
Production and harvesting system
After about 3-4 months of being stocked in small hanging pearl nets (like lanterns), the scallops are taken out of the water and put on floating process platforms where the scallops are selected by size. From there, the scallops are put in pearl nets of different sizes: L1 (15mm net) for a density of 120-80 scallops per floor and a size of 35-40 mm each, L2 (21 mm net) for a density of 80-40 scallops per floor and a size of 40-55 mm each and L3 (31 mm net) for a density of less than 40 scallops per floor and a size of 55-60 mm each. When the scallops have reached the right size for commercialization, the hanging pearl nets are taken out of the water by hydraulic cranes on boats. The net is brought to shore without ice. Ashore the net is put on wooden pallets and brought to a shaking area where the scallops are being ‘shaken’ from the net, put in plastic cubes and brought to the processing plant.
Target species and byproducts
Peruvian scallop farmers use monoculture. Sometimes there is some bycatch of mussels and other bivalves, but these are not fit for export purposes.
Stocking densities and productivity
Normally stocking is done manually. The larvae are ‘settled’ in nets. At this stage, the stocking density depends on various factors like the direction of ocean currents, seawater temperature at various depths, alga, salinity, water pollution, etc. In addition, it is important to do an analysis of the actual biomass in a specific part of the concession before stocking: higher biomass implies higher food availability, thus the stocking density can be high(er). Vice versa: lower biomass implies lower food availability which means low(er) stocking densities. Consequently, also productivity per hectare depends heavily on climate and conditions of the sea water. Sometimes the scallops need only 6 months to reach a 20-30 kg, shell off, but a grow-out time of 18 months is not rare. It all depends on the natural resources without any possibility of human intervention to speed up productivity.
Use of seed, feed and other inputs
There are two ways of getting the larvae: from natural resources or from hatcheries/laboratories for reproduction. Larvae collected from the natural environment are picked by hand by divers. These larvae have a size of about 200μm. In 2015 and 2016 there was a great lack of larvae due to overfishing of natural resources, especially from Isla de Lobos de Tierra. Farmers even wanted to invade national parks like Paracas for the larvae, which the Peruvian government ultimately refused. Consequently, scallop production dropped considerably during these years. Slowly these natural resources are recovering, but the authorities still control, as much as possible, the catch of larvae in these areas. Larvae purchased from a hatchery have an average size of 700μm. These laboratories use mature scallops as broodstock for reproduction. The company Acuapesca has its own hatchery for its own farm, but also sells larvae to small and medium-scale farmers. Small private hatcheries that are operating without farms also exist. Moreover, the Peruvian government is investing in creating public hatcheries for the scallop farming industry. Public projects like CITE Sechura in cooperation with the University Cayetano Heredia are trying to supply larvae in a more sustainable way in the near future.
No feed is used during farming, the sea takes care of all necessary feed. In periods of less natural biomass, there are fewer possibilities for scallop farming. In periods of lots of natural biomass, one can seed more larvae and reach higher production levels. As there are no fixed seasons of high or low biomass, it is necessary to do an analysis of the sea water continuously. There is no input of medicines or probiotics.
Stocking, harvesting and trading is done year-round in all areas. There is a peak of harvesting in September due to the coming Christmas season.
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