Ecuador’s Fishing Industry

Ecuador is a land of many regional variations, ranging from the Pacific coastal lowlands to the mountains and volcanoes of the majestic Andes running down the country’s spine, to finally the lush, verdant rainforests of the Amazonian east. While much has been made of the Andes, even to the point that Ecuador is considered an “Andean nation”, it is the Pacific lowlands along the coast – and the rich ocean waters that break upon them – that have proven to be Ecuador’s salvation.

From time immemorial, native Ecuadorians have been harvesting the sea. In this respect the land and its people have been blessed, as these waters are famously stocked with fish from the size of minnows up to monstrous Tuna and Marlin. This burgeoning wealth arises from a happy accident of geography and oceanography that places Ecuador at the collision point of two very different ocean currents. From the south and originating in the frigid Antarctic, the cold Humboldt Current sweeps up the South American coast, bringing with it nutrients, plankton and krill (a tiny crustacean that underlies the oceanic food chain). As this current rounds the continental bulge where Ecuador juts into the Pacific, it meets the El Nino current, a much warmer flow of water that travels south from the area off Central America. As these warm waters mix with the colder, nutrient-rich northerly flow, the population of small fish explodes. Of course, small fish attract larger fish, and the result is a bonanza for both sport fishermen and commercial fisheries.

Ecuador has become a leading South American producer and exporter of Tuna, and this success has helped the fishing industry buy modern ships and processing equipment based in the port city of Manta. Shrimp is one of Ecuador’s largest seafood exports and the warm waters of the Bay of Guayaquil are home to many shrimp farms. Sport fishing species such as Blue and Black Marlin, Sailfish and other so-called “Billfish” attract fisherman from North America, who patronize family-run deep sea fishing lodges and participate in world-renowned fishing tournaments. For Ecuadorians, this golden harvest from the sea has helped improve the lives of thousands of people who live in the once economically depressed coastal region.